It’s no fun to plan for one’s death or mental incapacity, but it’s important that you have a say in what will happen to you, your family and finances if something should happen to you!
I’ve heard many horror stories of families torn apart because there were no legal documents outlining the person’s wishes. So that does not become your legacy, I’m sharing a list of the documents that estate planning attorneys recommend that you have in place.
- Last Will & Testament – You will need to plan for who will receive your assets; who will take care of minor children and who will be the executor of your will to make sure that your wishes are followed. Remember, a will can be changed at any time so your first will, will very likely not be your last will.
- Living Will – This document outlines your “end-of-life” care should you become terminally ill or permanently unconscious. It ensures that your wishes about when to end your life are known by all and are followed.
- Trust Agreement – It’s a legal document providing management of your assets. There are two kinds of trusts:
- Living Trust – In effect during your lifetime in the event you become mentally incapacitated.
- Testamentary Trust – Goes into effect after your death.
Basically, a trust agreement is a document that appoints a “trustee” who will be responsible for managing your assets and how they will be distributed…assets such as real property, IRA’s, annuities, personal property, etc.
- Power of Attorney – Allows a person specified by you to act on your behalf regarding legal decisions. There are two kinds:
- Durable Power of Attorney – Covers ALL legal decisions
- Specific Power of Attorney – Can only be used for a stipulated event (such as signing mortgage documents if you are unavailable to sign)
- Healthcare Power of Attorney/Directive – Provides a trusted person(s) the authority to make medical treatment decisions if you are unable to do so on your own. You could give your Healthcare Power of Attorney/Directive to one person and your Durable Power of Attorney to another.
- Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) Release Document – Medical records are confidential. This document gives your health care provider legal authority to share your medical record with family if you become incapacitated.
- Letter of Intent – This is a non-binding letter that outlines to all what your special requests are such as who will receive personal items (like grandma’s wedding ring). Outlines the type of funeral you want, if any (party at your favorite restaurant) and whether you prefer to be buried or cremated.
Always interview prospective attorneys before you hiring them. Attorneys are required to provide one hour of free consultation so you can decide if they are the right one for you. And don’t forget to get recommendations from family and friends as to who they used and liked.
Questions? Give me a call, 360-459-1200!