With so many misconceptions about estate planning, it’s hard to know what you need to have prepared for your loved ones in case the worst happens. Many think that an estate plan just involves having a will. Of course a will is great to have, but there is much more to an estate plan to ensure all your wishes are documented and that your plan is carried out easily when the time comes. A common question is “what estate planning documents do I need?”, and while this won’t be the same for everyone, there are some common documents that everyone should have to protect their legacy.
Will and/or Trust
Wills and trusts may seem overwhelming or you may think you don’t “qualify” to have one, but these are common documents that most people should have. A will expresses your wishes for your assets upon your death. Even if your assets are more on the modest side, having a will helps to keep what wealth you do have in the hands of the people you choose. A will is good to have so there is a general guideline for how you wish for your wealth to be disbursed once you are gone.
A trust is similar to a will in that it will list your wishes for your assets, but this document is a living document that protects you during your lifetime. Say you were to get into an accident and become unable to advocate for yourself, a trust will protect your assets and give access to the right people to help you. A trust also helps to plan for other situations as well, like if you have young children, or have certain stipulations in which you want someone to receive their inheritance.
Power of Attorney
There are two types of Power of Attorney documents that everyone should have, regardless of the complexity of their estate plan. Having a durable power of attorney means that you have selected someone to legally act on your behalf if you become unable to advocate or make decisions for yourself. This person would be able to make any financial transactions necessary to keep your affairs in order. Some people elect to have this person in charge of healthcare decisions as well, but you can also have a Healthcare Power of Attorney document that will appoint someone of your choosing to make your medical decisions for you if that were to become necessary.
Your estate plan doesn’t only come into play after you are gone. A proper estate plan should have protections in place for while you are still alive. A living will lists your wishes for your medical care should something happen to you in which you become incapacitated. This document will help to guide the person you have deemed as your power of attorney as it will have your direct wishes for your care. Some of these decisions include how you would want your pain managed, would you want to be on a ventilator, and end of life care. This of course can be difficult to think about, but planning in advance only helps everyone to be prepared for the worst and to have guidance during a stressful time.
Need a plan or help updating an existing one? Contact us and we will guide you through the process. We offer risk free consultations so we can assess your situation and provide the guidance you need.
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Disclaimer: This article is intended to serve as a general summary of the issues outlined therein. While this article may include general guidance, it is not intended as, nor is a substitute for, qualified legal advice. Your review or receipt of this article by Lexern Law Offices, Ltd. (the “LLG”) or any of its attorneys does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and the LLG. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors of the article and does not reflect the opinion of the LLG.