Estate planning is more than just creating a will. Here is a look at eight different documents you may need to prepare for yourself and your family. Talk to your advisor about navigating this process.
Last Will and Testament
A legal document used to distribute property to heirs, specify last wishes, name guardians for minors and identify who is responsible for managing the estate and implementing your wishes. Every adult needs one. If you don’t specify who will take care of your children and who gets your possessions, the state will specify.
Durable Financial Powers of Attorney
A durable power of attorney gives someone you trust authority to handle your financial and legal decisions if you’re unable to do so yourself. Of course, the person selected needs to be someone who will represent your best interests.
Durable Medical Power of Attorney
You assign a healthcare proxy or durable power of attorney to make medical decisions for you when you are incapable to do so for some reason. This person will need relevant health information so be sure to include a HIPAA provision that gives your physicians permission to disclose your medical information.
Living Will and Medical Directives
A living will lets you specify what types of medical treatment you want to sustain your life, if you’re terminally ill or are in a vegetative state. Medical directives apply if you become incapacitated and are unable to communicate your wishes for treatment.
Revocable or Living Trust
In many states, a living trust can be used to distribute property a little more privately than a will. It also can help avoid a costly and stressful probate court process and may offer substantial tax benefits. Living trusts can also be used to transfer assets in an orderly, and private, manner. You can even stipulate provisions for the bequests, if you wish.
For insurance policies, retirement accounts and some other assets, the beneficiary form prevails over the will. So whomever you’ve named will receive those assets unless you update the form. It’s a good idea to keep current copies, as well.
Letters of Instruction
A way to share any wishes not covered by a will, such as preferences on your funeral, how to care for your pets or whether you want to donate your organs.
List of Contacts
A detailed list of people to contact in certain circumstances, including family, friends and the professionals who oversee your legal, financial, insurance and health matters.
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