A complete estate plan should include several documents to assure that the person executing them has a plan for his medical and business future while he is living and a plan for his estate after he passes away.
Last Will and Testament: A Will is a document executed during life that allows a person to appoint someone to take charge of her real and personal property at her death, and instructs that person on how the property should be transferred. Having a Will allows a person to decide who she wants to have her property and allows her to set up proper trusts that may be necessary for children or other beneficiaries with special needs.
Beneficiary Designation Forms: Beneficiary designation forms should always be completed on any life insurance or retirement plans one may have. These forms instruct the company on how the account should be distributed at the holder’s death. It is important that these forms are completed appropriately and should always be discussed by your estate planning attorney, especially if you are leaving assets to someone in a trust.
Durable Power of Attorney: A power of attorney is a legal document that allows a person to appoint someone else (an “agent”) to act on her behalf to make business decisions should she be unable to make those decisions herself. This document can allow the agent to have various levels of power and can be immediately effective or become effective at the person’s incapacity. How you wish to structure the power should be discussed in detail with your estate attorney.
Power of Attorney for Health Care and Advanced Directive for Health Care: These documents act as a team to appoint someone (an “agent”) to make medical decisions for a person if he is unable to do so for himself. These documents also instruct the agent on the persons desires regarding continuing artificial life support and food and water through a tube or I.V. at the end of life. These documents should include a HIPAA agreement allowing the agent access to the person’s medical records.
A proper estate plan offers security to not only the person executing the plan, but to the entire family. It offers the comfort of knowing that you and your assets are handled as you would want for your lifetime and beyond.