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Heritage Tree LogoImportant Estate Planning Documents in Pennsylvania

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There are a number of different documents that are essential in a comprehensive estate plan. Read on and reach out to our skilled Butler County estate planning & probate attorneys to help you compile these documents.

What documents are important in an estate plan?

1. Last will and testament
In your will, you define who you want to inherit specific assets and property once you pass away. This includes your physical assets, such as real estate and personal possessions, in addition to intangible assets, like bank and investment accounts. The recipients of your assets are named your beneficiaries. They can be your family members, friends, or even nonprofits that are important to you. In your will, you can also designate guardians for your minor children and your pets, and choose an executor to carry out the wishes in your will.

2. Revocable living trust
Like a will, a revocable living trust is a legal instrument that lets you distribute your assets after you die. A revocable living trust is a legal entity that “owns” the property you put into it while still allowing you to use and control that property while you’re alive. A revocable living trust needs more maintenance than a will, but it allows your assets to avoid the time and expense of probate. After you pass away, assets in a revocable living trust can be distributed to your heirs quickly and privately.

3. Beneficiary designations
There are certain assets that can skip probate (the court-supervised legal process of distributing your assets) and instead transfer straight to a beneficiary after you die. These types of assets are referred to as non-probate assets and include 401(k) accounts, pensions, and life insurance policies. For these assets to skip probate, you have to reach out to each institution where you have a non-probate asset (for instance, your bank or life insurance provider) and name a beneficiary for it.

4. Advance healthcare directive (AHCD) / living will
An advance healthcare directive allows you to sketch how decisions should be made about your medical care if you are ever unable to make those decisions on your own. There are generally two parts to an AHCD document, a living will and a medical power of attorney. A living will allows you to outline your medical care choices in the event you are unable to communicate them. These choices can be about medication, treatment options, surgical procedures, end-of-life care, and more. With a medical power of attorney, you select someone, called your healthcare agent, to make healthcare decisions for you if you’re unable to.

6. Proof of identity documents
It benefits your executor if you have all your identity documents in one accessible location. This includes your Social Security card; birth, marriage, and divorce certificates; prenuptial agreements; divorce settlements; and any Armed Forces discharge papers.


Whether you are dealing with matters involving estate planning, estate administration, or elder law, you need a legal team you can feel confident will represent your best interests, every step of the way. We are that legal team. Contact Heritage Elder Law & Estate Planning today so we can get started.

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