The older you get, the more important it is that you create an estate plan that addresses everything from distribution of your assets to expression of your health care wishes.
For those who have yet to form an end-of-life plan, here are a few important estate planning documents that you should consider creating as soon as possible:
Health Care Powers of Attorney
If you cannot make decisions about your health care towards the end of your life due to a tragic accident or because of a disease or illness, having a health care power of attorney will be important. A health care power of attorney is a legal document that allows you to appoint another person to make those critical health care decisions on your behalf.
Financial Powers of Attorney
Just like a health care power of attorney, a financial power of attorney allows you to appoint another person to make important decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated. In this case, the person you appoint will have the power to manage your financial affairs such as paying your bills.
A living will is a document that allows you to express your health care wishes to doctors should you ever become incapacitated to the point that you are unable to communicate those wishes. Also known as an advance directive, a living will can address your feelings about pain medications, life-saving measures, life support, surgeries and more.
Last Will & Testament
A last will and testament is a document that dictates what will happen to your possessions and other assets when you die. It also names an executor, who is the person responsible for distributing your estate upon your death. If you die without a will, your estate will be distributed by the laws of intestate succession and not according to your wishes.
Do I Need an Estate Plan?
You are not legally required to create an estate plan. However, in practical terms, you should engage in estate planning. If you do not have an estate plan, you will have no control over what happens to you and your assets as you approach the end of your life.
When a person falls ill or dies without an estate plan, the person places a very large burden on the shoulders of their loved ones. This can lead to guilt, stress, and disputes between members of the family.
In all cases, it is always best to make these decisions yourself in advance. Express your wishes to all members of your family and put those wishes into writing. You must also make sure that all of your documents are legally valid.
Do I Need an Estate Planning Attorney?
Just like there is no requirement to create an estate plan, there is no requirement to work with an attorney. However, creating an estate plan can be very difficult, especially from a legal and tax perspective. For this reason, most people choose to work with an experienced estate planning attorney who can guide them through the process.