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Everyone dies but what documents do you need in your lifetime?

When it comes to estate planning, people often focus on what is needed when you pass away. However, there are some key documents you don’t want to go without in your lifetime, according to nwi.com in “Estate Planning: 3 important estate planning docs, and 2 maybes“. A key focus of the article is that everyone should have a Power of Attorney or POA, a health care proxy, and a will.

The first must-have estate planning document is a Power of Attorney or POA. The POA is the document that permits a designated agent to act in your place for financial transactions if you are unable to act, including, but not limited to banking transactions, real estate transactions and asset transfers.

The second must-have estate planning document is a comprehensive health care proxy. How many times have you heard the story about someone’s aging mom becoming disabled and the hospital asking if she has a health care proxy? The problem is we’re so reluctant to ask mom about a health care proxy, that we tend to neglect this difficult conversation. Then, when we are faced with a medical emergency, it’s too late.

In a medical emergency, people are actually far more likely to become disabled or incapacitated than they are to die. Therefore, you need a health care proxy and need to give your health care agent clear instructions for your care if you are unable to express your wishes or are terminally ill and death is expected to occur in the very near future and under what circumstances you want your life prolonged or ended.

The third must-have estate planning document is a will. The will is the document where you tell your heirs exactly how you want your assets distributed.  If you have children who are not yet of legal age, you should name a guardian for them in your will.

One “maybe” document is a trust. Trusts are used to protect assets. There are many different types of trusts. An estate planning attorney, the same one who will help you with your POA, health care proxy and will, can also help with trusts, if you should need one. They are not simple to set up and you’ll want to get the one that best fits your needs.

Another “maybe” document is called a “letter of instruction.” This is a set of directions that you leave to your family that tells them what you would like to happen. It’s not legally binding, so it falls into the “maybe” document category. However, you may find it satisfying to put down on paper what you would like them to know, what you would like them to remember, etc.

If you want to dictate your funeral, memorial services and the like, work with an estate planning attorney to execute a funeral planning declaration. This document can be legally enforced.

An estate planning attorney can advise you in creating an estate plan that fits your unique circumstances and is specific to the laws of your state of residence.

Reference: nwi.com (Nov. 25, 2018) “Estate Planning: 3 important estate planning docs, and 2 maybes

For more information on asset preservation and estate planning, please visit my estate planning website.

Mr. Amoruso concentrates his practice on Elder Law, Comprehensive Estate Planning, Asset Preservation, Estate Administration and Guardianship.