Basics of Estate Planning

At Center City Notary, we are always available to assist you with the notarization of your estate planning document(s).  We do suggest you make an appointment.  If you are an individual, see a description of the estate planning documents you may or may not require.   Scroll further down if you are an estate planning attorney for how we can assist.

Critical to Remember, Notaries are not permitted to give legal advice.  At Center City Notary we suggest that you consult with an attorney so that you are sure that these documents reflect your requirements and your wishes.

Vintage / retro style : Blue ballpoint pen, antique pocket watch

Basics of Estate Planning

At Center City Notary, we are always available to assist you with the notarization of your estate planning document(s).  We do suggest you make an appointment.  If you are an individual, see a description of the estate planning documents you may or may not require.   Scroll further down if you are an estate planning attorney for how we can assist.

Critical to Remember, Notaries are not permitted to give legal advice.  At Center City Notary we suggest that you consult with an attorney so that you are sure that these documents reflect your requirements and your wishes.

Vintage / retro style : Blue ballpoint pen, antique pocket watch

Money Talk News describes 8 of the most important estate Planning documents. 

1. Last will and testament

A Will gives you the power to decide what is in the best interests of your children and pets after you’re gone. It also can help you determine what will happen to possessions with financial or sentimental value. It typically names an executor — someone who will be in charge of following your directions. Finally, you can include any funeral provisions.

Use your will to name guardians for those under your care, including minor children and pets. Designate any assets you are leaving for their care.

If you’re married, your spouse needs a separate will, AARP says.

In the absence of a will, a probate court will name an executor — typically a spouse or grown child — for your estate. Probate proceedings are a matter of public record. So keep private information — passwords, for example — out of your will, as that information could become part of a public document.

2. Revocable living trust

A living trust is another tool for passing assets to heirs while avoiding potentially expensive and time-consuming probate court proceedings.

You name a trustee — perhaps a spouse, family member or attorney — to manage your property. Unlike a will, a trust can be used to distribute property now or after your death.

If you have substantial property or wealth, a trust can provide tax savings.

ElderLawAnswers further explains the differences between trusts and wills. Creating a trust is not a do-it-yourself project. Get an attorney’s help.

3. Beneficiary designations

When you purchase life insurance or open a retirement plan or bank account, you’re often asked to name a beneficiary, which is the person you want to inherit the proceeds when you die. These designations are powerful, and they take precedence over instructions in a will.

Keep beneficiary designation papers with your estate-planning documents. Review and update them as your life changes.

4. Durable power of attorney

This document allows you to choose someone to act on your behalf, financially and legally, in the event that you can’t make decisions.

Don’t put off this chore. You must be legally competent to assign this role to someone. Older people worried about relinquishing control sometimes put off the task until they are no longer legally competent to do it.

7. Letter of intent

For instructions, requests and important personal or financial information that don’t belong in your will, write a letter. Use it to convey your wishes for things you hope will be done. For example, you may have detailed instructions about how you want your funeral or memorial service to be performed.

No attorney is needed. The letter won’t carry the legal weight of a will.

8. List of important documents

Make certain your family knows where to find everything you’ve prepared. Make a list of documents, including where each is stored. Include papers for:

  • Life insurance policies
  • Annuities
  • Pension or retirement accounts
  • Bank accounts
  • Divorce records
  • Birth and adoption certificates
  • Real estate deeds
  • Stocks, bonds and mutual funds

Another item helpful for your heirs is a list of bills and accounts, including contact information and account numbers for each, so your representative can settle and close these accounts.

We work closely with attorneys and other trust professionals.   We will attend an appointment with the Attorney or Trust Professional or, in the alternative, act as his or her representative.  

If we are representing the Attorney or Trust Professional, we will follow his or her instructions carefully. We understand the importance of having these critical documents delivered to all stakeholders, whether it be the settlor / grantor / trustor / trustee, or beneficiary. 

If we are acting as the representative of the Attorney or Trust Professional, once the document(s) have been signed and notarized, we will ensure that any document(s) you require to be returned to your office are promptly returned by private courier or FedEx/UPS.

Our notaries are professional and understand the confidentiality of these documents.

When notarizing for the elderly, it is the responsibility of the notary to judge the competency of the signer. 

Check out the American Association of Notaries for an interesting article on Steps for Notarizing an Elder Signer.

1. Last will and testament

A Will gives you the power to decide what is in the best interests of your children and pets after you’re gone. It also can help you determine what will happen to possessions with financial or sentimental value. It typically names an executor — someone who will be in charge of following your directions. Finally, you can include any funeral provisions.

Use your will to name guardians for those under your care, including minor children and pets. Designate any assets you are leaving for their care.

If you’re married, your spouse needs a separate will, AARP says.

In the absence of a will, a probate court will name an executor — typically a spouse or grown child — for your estate. Probate proceedings are a matter of public record. So keep private information — passwords, for example — out of your will, as that information could become part of a public document.

2. Revocable living trust

A living trust is another tool for passing assets to heirs while avoiding potentially expensive and time-consuming probate court proceedings.

You name a trustee — perhaps a spouse, family member or attorney — to manage your property. Unlike a will, a trust can be used to distribute property now or after your death.

If you have substantial property or wealth, a trust can provide tax savings.

ElderLawAnswers further explains the differences between trusts and wills. Creating a trust is not a do-it-yourself project. Get an attorney’s help.

3. Beneficiary designations

When you purchase life insurance or open a retirement plan or bank account, you’re often asked to name a beneficiary, which is the person you want to inherit the proceeds when you die. These designations are powerful, and they take precedence over instructions in a will.

Keep beneficiary designation papers with your estate-planning documents. Review and update them as your life changes.

4. Durable power of attorney

This document allows you to choose someone to act on your behalf, financially and legally, in the event that you can’t make decisions.

Don’t put off this chore. You must be legally competent to assign this role to someone. Older people worried about relinquishing control sometimes put off the task until they are no longer legally competent to do it.

7. Letter of intent

For instructions, requests and important personal or financial information that don’t belong in your will, write a letter. Use it to convey your wishes for things you hope will be done. For example, you may have detailed instructions about how you want your funeral or memorial service to be performed.

No attorney is needed. The letter won’t carry the legal weight of a will.

8. List of important documents

Make certain your family knows where to find everything you’ve prepared. Make a list of documents, including where each is stored. Include papers for:

  • Life insurance policies
  • Annuities
  • Pension or retirement accounts
  • Bank accounts
  • Divorce records
  • Birth and adoption certificates
  • Real estate deeds
  • Stocks, bonds and mutual funds

Another item helpful for your heirs is a list of bills and accounts, including contact information and account numbers for each, so your representative can settle and close these accounts.

We work closely with attorneys and other trust professionals.   We will attend an appointment with the Attorney or Trust Professional or, in the alternative, act as his or her representative.  

If we are representing the Attorney or Trust Professional, we will follow his or her instructions carefully. We understand the importance of having these critical documents delivered to all stakeholders, whether it be the settlor / grantor / trustor / trustee, or beneficiary. 

If we are acting as the representative of the Attorney or Trust Professional, once the document(s) have been signed and notarized, we will ensure that any document(s) you require to be returned to your office are promptly returned by private courier or FedEx/UPS.

Our notaries are professional and understand the confidentiality of these documents.

When notarizing for the elderly, it is the responsibility of the notary to judge the competency of the signer. 

Check out the American Association of Notaries for an interesting article on Steps for Notarizing an Elder Signer.

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