It sometimes takes a tragic event for people to reflect on their own situation and get their affairs in order. Other times, it is too late and family members are left scrambling. Here are four basic, important legal documents everyone should have in place as part of the estate plan.
Financial Power of Attorney.
This document delegates authority to someone else to manage your financial affairs alongside you or in the event you are incapacitated. This person is referred to as your agent or attorney-in-fact. It is wise to list one or two alternate people to serve in this role if your primary choice is unable or unwilling to assist you. This person can write and sign checks for you, pay bills, make other payments, speak with banks or creditors, and assist you overall with your finances in a variety of ways.
Health Care Representative Designation.
In the event you are incapacitated or not able to communicate concerning your medical care, you will want a close friend or family member to make these decisions for you based upon what is best for you in that moment. In order for this person to act on your behalf, you need a formal document appointing him or her as your Health Care Representative. This person will be able to consent to treatment on your behalf and discuss your options with your doctors.
Living Will Declaration.
In the unfortunate and unforeseen circumstance that you require life-sustaining treatment, also referred to as “life support”, you will likely want your wishes known as to what artificial support is provided to you and for how long. With a Living Will Declaration, you can choose to receive or refuse artificial life-sustaining treatment, or, leave the decision to your Health Care Representative.
Last Will and Testament.
Commonly referred to as a “Will”. Your will includes your wishes for who gets what property when you die. The above three documents are in place during your lifetime and are no longer valid or useful once you pass. Your will takes effect upon your death. You can include provisions for proposed guardians of your children if they are minors or incapacitated adults. You can list who you want to receive certain items of personal property or real estate. You can also specifically disinherit certain people if you wish.