In order to provide you with maximum protection, every adult needs four (4) basic estate planning documents. The first document is the financial power of attorney. This document is legally binding and assigns another to make financial transactions on your behalf while you are living, but not competent. Your power of attorney may simply ensure your bills are paid, transfer money between your accounts or he or she can sell your house and withdraw money from your retirement savings to fund your care. Without this document, the Probate court decides who handles your finances.
The next two (2) documents go hand in hand – the Living Will and Healthcare Power of Attorney. The Living Will is a statement that you do not want to be kept artificially alive if your become terminally ill or are permanently unconscious. If you come to be in that state then, without a Living Will, your family makes these end of life decisions for you. A Healthcare Power of Attorney, on the other hand, will allow another to make decisions regarding your medical care, even if you are not terminal. Your power of attorney can makes decisions ranging from authorizing the administration of pain relieving drugs to admitting you to a rehabilitation facility. Like the financial power of attorney, without these documents the Probate court will decide who makes these decisions.
The final critical document is a Last Will and Testament. The Will is a set of instructions to the Probate court detailing who is to receive your property upon your passing and who will handle this transfer. Keep in mind that the instructions in the Will only pertain to those assets that are in your name alone at your passing – so, typically excluding assets that name a beneficiary or have a joint owner. Without a Will, state law dictates where your property will be distributed and by whom. Often, this may not be someone you would choose.
If you do not have one or all of these documents, it is important that you make getting them a priority. Call me today and we can discuss the process involved in establishing your estate plan.