We all know that estate planning documents are an important part of our financial and long term planning. Whether we are young or old, having the right documents can give us peace of mind. Completing estate planning documents takes the burden of having to make tough decisions off of our loved ones. It also helps assure that our wishes will be honored. You may not understand the different estate planning documents that are available to you. When discussing it with family, you may get overwhelmed and decide to put it off. Estate planning does not have to be difficult. Once you understand the documents and how they can help you, you can make the best decision for you and your family.
- Last Will and Testament: In a Last Will and Testament, you choose who you would like to be the personal representative of your Estate. The personal representative is the person who will make sure your wishes in your will are carried out. In a Will, you will also list how you would like your assets distributed after you have passed. You may leave assets to family, friends, charities, or even a pet.
- Living Will: This document indicates that you do not want artificial life support if no amount of further medical treatment will improve your condition, and that artificial life support will serve no purpose other than to artificially delay your death.
- Designation of Healthcare Surrogate: Is used to designate a specific person(s) to manage your health care decision making in the event that you are unable to do so for yourself. The person(s) you designate is called a surrogate. Physicians will always look to you for health care decision making until it is determined you are unable to do so any longer before they turn to your surrogate(s) for decision making.
- Power of Attorney: Designates a specific person(s) to manage your financial affairs. The person(s) you designate is called an agent. If due to advanced age, illness or accident, you become incapacitated and no longer able to control your financial affairs the agent can act on your behalf. Your agent should be someone reliable, dependable, and ideally, should live close by. This is a very important document and can help a loved one avoid guardianship if you become unable to make your own decisions.
- Living Trust: A living trust is similar to a Will. A trustee is appointed to oversee the Trust and also list how you would like your assets distributed. One advantage of a living will is that it is the one document needed to avoid probate. This document will help loved ones avoid the cost and time of having your assets go though probate court.