Estate planning is a way to ensure that your family is taken care of and your assets are distributed according to your wishes. The following documents will help you get everything organized and properly recorded.
1. Living Will
A Living Will is a way to make others aware of your life support preferences. Without it, state laws may be used to appoint someone who will make decisions about your medical care.
2. Medical Power of Attorney
Entrusting your medical care to another person is difficult to think about, but shouldn’t be left to chance. Setting up a single representative to communicate with physicians could avert costly and time-sensitive issues.
Choose your agent for your power of attorney carefully. Qualifications to consider are:
- Medical knowledge
- Ability to make difficult decisions in stressful situations
- Good communication skills
- Willingness to stand strong in the face of adversity
3. Durable Power of Attorney
Assign someone you trust to manage your assets if you are unable to do so. Some responsibilities you may want to consider are:
- Bill Paying
- Selling or Renting Real Estate
- Managing Investments
- Handling Government Benefits
You are in control of specific powers to be included or limited in each area. This may be revoked while you are physically and mentally competent.
4. Last Will and Testament
It’s important to have a will so that your assets are dispersed as you would like. This document can be set up to cover everything you own, including digital properties and accounts. If you have dependent children, be sure that your guardianship choices are included in your will. Changes can be made as needed.
5. Revocable Living Trust
A Living Trust may be better for beneficiaries than a Last Will and Testament. This option offers privacy and immediate access to property and funds. Everything must be well organized, it is fairly expensive, and a will is still required for moving assets into the trust.
6. Letter of Intent
This is to assist with management of your assets in the event of your death or inability to manage your estate. This is not considered a legal document, but it will provide information to the probate judge or the executor of your will. You may want to include:
- Preferred charities for donations
- Funeral and burial details
- Specific assets you would like distributed to specific people or organizations
When setting up your documents, be sure that all of the instructions and designations are consistent. Leaving conflicting amounts or items to beneficiaries could force your estate into probate.