While you might think a Will is all you need in your estate plan, this is not always the case. A solid estate plan consists of several documents that not only distribute your property but also ease the financial and emotional burden on your loved ones. Below are some of the legal documents commonly used in estate planning:
We all know that a Will can help us distribute our assets but does it do anything else? In addition to dividing up property, it can also be used to appoint a guardian for minor children. There are however, things it can’t do such as provide for a disabled dependant or protect you in the event of a disability. To really protect you and your loved ones, you need a complete plan.
A living will documents your wishes regarding medical situations in which you would or would not want your life prolonged. It also tells your healthcare providers which treatments you do or do not want. This eases the moral and legal burden on your loved ones, as it speaks for you when you are unable to speak for yourself.
Medical Power of Attorney
A medical power of attorney is used to appoint someone to make medical decisions for you in the event you are unable to make them yourself and can be especially important if your Living Will doesn’t address your particular situation. This document not only applies during medical emergencies, but can also be handy for your family to have if you become incapacited.
Financial Power of Attorney
A financial Power of Attorney (also called a Durable Power of Attorney) is a document that names a person of your choosing to make financial decisions on your behalf, should you be unable to do it yourself. It can also document how the person should make those decisions when managing your financial affairs.
Of course, these documents are only part of the picture of a complete estate plan. Depending upon your personal circumstances, you might also want to consider creating incentives for your heirs, providing for children from multiple marriages, or perhaps some of the unique estate planning challenges that face gay or lesbian couples.
The point is, a Will alone does not create a complete estate plan – you need a qualified estate planning attorney to help you do that. For example, should you create a Living Trust? Do you have out-of-state property? How do you ensure that your beloved pet is cared for after you’re gone?
While estate planning can be a complex maze of legalities and ‘what-ifs’, working with a local attorney experienced in estate planning will simplify the process and bring peace of mind when addressing these sensitive topics.