Documents for All couples, single parents or individuals-
- Basic Will - A will is a legal document that indicates the way the state should distribute your assets upon your death. Having a will ensures that that state law will not dictate the distribution of your assets, the custody of your children, or other dependents.
- Nomination of Guardian for Minors - The appointment of guardians for minor child or children is an important aspect of an estate plan. Arkansas requires a court appointment and approval of a guardian for a minor regardless of the appointment in the Will. Appointed guardian and successor guardians should be appointed within a person’s will and in addition a separate Nomination of Guardian for Minor Child (or Children) should be executed and filed with the probate court for safekeeping, and the probate court shall designate the nomination as the nomination of a standby guardian.
- Living Trust - You set this up and, while you're alive, transfer into it any assets you want to leave. While you're around, the trust "owns" the assets, but you control the trust. When you die, the person you've named as trustee passes them on to whoever you've named as the beneficiaries (and in most places you can name your partner as both trustee and beneficiary.) You do have to remember to transfer assets into it, which involves some paperwork. And it won't lighten the load when it comes to estate taxes. Because assets are outside the will (and probate), it's private, and trusts are difficult to challenge. You can also make changes if you want. If you're leaving money to minors, you can create rules governing its use.
- Funeral Arrangement Authorization - You should designate who's taking care of funeral arrangements if your spouse is not alive. For those in a same-sex relationship, to insure that your partner is not shut out of the process and not allowed to participate.
- Prenuptial Agreement - A prenuptial agreement is a contract entered into prior to marriage, civil union or any other agreement prior to the main agreement by the people intending to marry or contract with each other. The content of a prenuptial agreement can include provisions for division of property and spousal support in the event of divorce or breakup of marriage.
Five elements are required for a valid prenuptial agreement: 1. agreement must be in writing; 2. must be executed voluntarily; 3. full and/or fair disclosure at the time of execution; 4. the agreement cannot be unconscionable; 5. it must be executed by both parties before a notary public.
Also, prenuptial agreements are not allowed to regulate issues relating to the children of the marriage, in particular, custody and access issues.
- Postnuptial Agreement -A postnuptial agreement is a written contract executed after a couple gets married, or has entered a civil union, to settle the couple's affairs and assets in the event of a separation or divorce. It commonly includes provisions for division of property and spousal support in the event of divorce, death of one of the spouses, or breakup of marriage.
The same five elements are required for a valid postnuptial agreement as for a prenuptial agreement.
- Consent to Joint Representation for Legal Services (if for a couple) - Spouses can have differing and sometimes sharply conflicting interests and objectives regarding their estate plan. There are clear benefits in both cost and efficiency when estate planning together as spouses instead of each of you having separate attorneys; however, it is important that each of you understands your Attorney’s obligations with respect to dual representation. If each of you had your own attorney, you would each receive completely separate, privileged and confidential advice. None of the information discussed with that attorney would be disclosed to your spouse without your consent. However, that is not the case when one firm advised both of you jointly. The Consent to Joint Representation for Legal Services document confirms that each of you have requested the joint representation by one firm in connection with your estate plan and you both agree that communications and information received by either of you will not be kept confidential from the other spouse.
- Durable Powers of Attorney - The Durable Powers of Attorney is a signed and notarized document by which one person, the principal, gives another person, an agent, authority to act on the principal's behalf. The authority may be general, giving the agent broad power to make decisions, or limited, giving the agent the power to do one or more specific things. It is called “durable” when, by its terms, it remains effective even if the principle becomes mentally incompetent. A principal can make the power of attorney effective immediately or at some later date or event, such as when the principal becomes incapacitated. Under most circumstances, a properly executed general durable power of attorney avoids the need for a court-appointed guardian or conservator.
- Durable Powers of Attorney for Health Care with Provisions for Living Will lets you name someone to make decisions about your medical care (Health care Proxy) any time you lose the ability to make medical decisions yourself and based on your defined wishes (Living Will).
- Living Will - A legal document that describes your treatment preferences in end-of-life situations. This document must be in writing, signed and witnessed by two persons. This is a declaration or statement that will tell your physician and family what you want done in medical treatment if you become terminally ill or permanently unconscious.
- HIPAA Releases - HIPAA is a federal law that gives you rights over your health information and sets rules and limits on who can look at and receive your health information. HIPPA Releases are used to identify family or friends who are involved with your healthcare or the healthcare of your minor child.
Additional documents for Same-sex couples or parents -
- Hospital Visitation Authorizations - To ensure that you and your partner are able to visit each other during a hospital stay, particularly if one of you is in intensive care, both partners should execute a hospital visitation authorization.
- Hospital and School Authorization - To insure that your partner can consent to emergency medical treatment or deal with schools for your children, if you are not available.
- Shared Parenting Agreement - Some states will allow the legal parent to draft a contract for shared custody with a domestic partner. This could be very helpful in keeping the family together if the legal parent dies. The downside is that if you and your partner break up, you will still be sharing custody.
- Nomination of Guardian for Adult - A person may nominate in a writing another person to be the guardian of the nominator’s person, estate, or both. The nomination is for consideration by a court if proceedings for the appointment of a guardian commenced at a later time. A Nomination of Guardian for Adult can be executed and filed with the probate court for safekeeping, and the probate court shall designate the nomination as the nomination of a standby guardian.