I was recently reminded of the importance of having a thorough and reliable estate plan. I can tell horror stories of family feuds and legal actions taken when the passing of an individual happens without a proper plan for their estate. I can speak of heartbreak when a loved one is suddenly placed on life support, and the family is unsure of how to proceed or unauthorized to make decisions for the hospitalized party. I can assure you that an estate plan is well worth your time and money. If one is not in place, unnecessary stress and complications will ensue.
A proper estate plan will contain multiple documents that protect an individual’s assets, healthcare wishes, and beneficiaries. The following are key documents in every estate plan. Please make sure they are a part of yours.
Will/Trust – A will or trust is used to control property from the grave. This control will ensure the transfer of property to the intended beneficiaries and avoid obstacles that can significantly reduce the benefit that heirs would otherwise enjoy. We highly recommend the use of an estate-planning attorney when creating these documents.
Executor of the Estate – An executor of an estate is an individual appointed to handle the affairs of the deceased person’s estate. He/she is responsible for making sure all assets in the will are accounted for, along with transferring these assets to the correct parties. We recommend that the executor of the estate is chosen carefully.
Power of Attorney – A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document giving a person (the agent) the power to act for another person (the principal). The agent can have broad legal authority or limited authority to make legal decisions about the principal’s property, finances, or medical care. A power of attorney is frequently used in the event of a principal’s illness or disability.
Living Will – A living will is a legal document that states a person’s choices about end-of-life medical treatments. It lays out the procedures or medications one does, or does not, want to prolong life. A living will is only valid if its creator is unable to communicate.
Medical Power of Attorney – A medical power of attorney gives someone else (the agent) the ability to make health care decisions for another person (the principal). The agent only has the power to act on the principal’s behalf when the principal is incapacitated, whether from loss of consciousness or mental ability.