Anyone who has amassed assets or savings during their lifetime has an estate. While discussing the inevitable passing of a loved one can be a very sensitive and uncomfortable conversation, it is critically important to plan for how and when you want your hard-earned assets distributed. In order to make sure this happens; we recommend having the following Essential Estate Planning Documents:
- Living Will (Advance Healthcare Directive)
- Power of Attorney
- Last Will and Testament
- Guardianship (for minor children)
Living Will (Advance Healthcare Directive)
A living will is a document that outlines an individual’s wishes for end of life care and may also appoint a specific person who would be responsible for making those decisions. This document becomes legally binding upon signature; however, the individual’s wishes will only be acted upon when that individual no longer has the capacity to make their own decisions.
Power of Attorney
Power of Attorney is a legally binding document that appoints a specific person or entity to act on an individual’s behalf for all matters of an estate. All financial and legal matters can be handled by the person that is appointed with Power of Attorney. This person can execute legal documents and close bank and brokerage accounts on behalf of the individual. It is important to note that a Power of Attorney ends upon an individual’s death.
Last Will and Testament
A last will and testament is a legal document that outlines an individual’s final wishes with all matters pertaining to their estate. If someone dies intestate, or without a will, his/her estate is settled by the courts which are appointed to distribute the assets of the estate. This can often lead to certain aspects of an estate not getting into the proper hands.
Guardianship (for minor children)
Guardianship is a legal process for assigning individual(s) to care for minor children if the parents of the children were no longer able to care for their well-being. Legal guardianship would spring into effect either upon the death of the second parent or upon the second parent’s incapacity. Having this essential estate planning document in place helps to best ensure that children will be cared for in accordance with their parents’ wishes.