McClellan Legal LLC Estate Planning & Tax Assessment Blog

Friday, October 18, 2019

Five Essential Documents for Estate Planning

During our initial call, our new clients commonly ask us to draft only a Will. We like to explain to our clients that estate planning is more than one document. Instead, you will need a few documents that work together to best express your wishes and achieve your estate planning goals. Our basic estate planning includes a Will, Durable Power of Attorney, Health Care Power of Attorney, and a Living Will. The last essential document is the Beneficiary Designation Form, which you obtain from the bank.


Your Will accomplishes a lot within your estate planning. A Will is only implemented when you pass away and allows you to select the beneficiaries and executor of your estate, as well as the guardians for any minor children. A Will also allows you to describe how and when your beneficiaries will receive their inheritance.

If you already have a Will, you should review it to ensure that the executor, beneficiaries, guardians, and distributions listed all comply with your current goals. If you would like to make any changes to your Will, you should consult an attorney. Please do not make your own changes as validity issues may arise.

Durable Power of Attorney

The Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) is one of the incapacity planning documents you need. This document names an agent, who is someone acting in your best interest, to handle your finances in case you become incapacitated (i.e. hospitalized) and were unable manage your finances yourself. The DPOA is only effective during your life and becomes ineffective at the time of your passing.

If you already have a DPOA, but it is over five years old, you should consider updating this document. Banks prefer newer documents to ensure that you currently believe the fiduciary is the best person to handle your finances during your incapacity. You will also want to ensure that the fiduciary you have named in this document is the best person for this role.

Health Care Power of Attorney

Another incapacity document you need is the Health Care Power of Attorney (HCPOA). This document names a fiduciary to make health care decisions on your behalf during your incapacity.

If you already have a HCPOA, please review who you have listed as your health care agent. Like the Will and DPOA, you will want to make sure the fiduciary you have named is the best person for this role.

Living Will

The last of the four standard estate planning documents we will draft for you is the Living Will. This document allows you to retain control over whether you want your life to be prolonged using artificial means when you are incapacitated and have a terminal condition or are permanently unconscious. The primary reason people have a living will is to reduce the burden on their family members with end of life decisions.

Beneficiary Designation Forms

The last essential document is the Beneficiary Designation Form, which can be found at your bank. While we include the distribution of your assets in your Will, whatever your Beneficiary Designation Form lists will be how the asset is distributed. That is, your beneficiary forms trump your will. Please be sure to update this form to reflect your wishes found in your estate planning documents.

If you are interested in learning more about estate planning or if you would like to schedule your free initial meeting with us, please do not hesitate to call our office at 610-444-5552. We will be more than happy to discuss your estate planning with you.

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McClellan Legal LLC is located in Kennett Square and serves clients throughout the areas of Avondale, Chadds Ford, Coatesville, Downingtown, Landenberg, Oxford, Phoenixville, Pottstown, West Chester, & West Grove.

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113 South Broad Street, Kennett Square, PA 19348
| Phone: 610-444-5552

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