Regardless of your age or the amount of assets you have acquired, you shouldn’t put off estate planning any longer. There are a few essential documents that should be included in any estate plan. Those include a will, a health care proxy, and a durable power of attorney. Without these documents in place, your wishes are unenforceable, even if you have clearly communicated those wishes with your family. The courts will decide what becomes of your assets, minor children, funds, and even your health care options. Without your estate planning bases covered, your estate could be tied up in probate for years and the likelihood of family disputes is greatly increased. You have the right and responsibility to take advantage of the protections proper estate planning will grant you and your family.
Last Will and Testament
A will is the first step for comprehensive estate planning. A will essentially spells out who you want to receive assets and funds. It also designates guardians for any minor children. A will should be done at any age, not just when you are of a certain age. However, once you do have a will drafted, it is important to have it updated as life circumstances necessitate. Some of those circumstances may include divorce, birth of children, death of a beneficiary, or remarriage and step children becoming part of a family. Newly acquired assets should also be added to an existing will.
Health Care Proxy
Another basic step in the estate planning process is the drafting of a health care proxy. You should not put off a health care proxy until you have a health issue or have been diagnosed with a health problem. Health care proxies are vital because an accident can occur at any time, to anyone, regardless of how healthy you may be today. A health care proxy essentially gives someone the authority to decide the course of your medical treatment if you become incapacitated in some way. This may be temporary, such as being in a coma. The document outlines what treatments you want and what you don’t want for yourself. Just as with a will, it isn’t enough for a family member to come forward and say what your wishes are. That can be disputed and put your wishes in jeopardy. The health care proxy is also for the protection of your family as an accident can lead to emotional turmoil and family disputes. With a proxy in place, your family is spared from infighting or having to make important decisions under duress.
Durable Power of Attorney
A durable power of attorney should also be considered a vital part of the estate planning package for anyone of any age. As with a health care proxy, this document relates to your wishes and needs if you become incapacitated. A durable power of attorney designates a trusted party to handle financial matters when you can’t do so yourself. This person can pay bills, deal with taxes, and handle investments and other financial matters. Even if you are hospitalized and unable to handle financial decisions and obligations even for a short time period, missing payments or not handling banking needs can wreak havoc on finances.
You and your family are unique and so are documents needed to protect all you and your family have worked for. However, these basic documents are a good start. If you haven’t taken any estate planning steps yet, now may be the time to sit down and discuss what estate planning documents with a qualified estate planning attorney so you and your family can have the peace of mind you deserve. Contact us at 1-800-240-1988 or fill out our online evaluation form.