Everyone’s estate plan is unique to them, their circumstances, and their wishes. That being said, each adult should have three documents in place to make sure their basic wishes are known and will be respected.
A Valid and Up-to-date Will.
Each adult should have a valid will, meaning it encompasses their wishes, accounts for their property, and is legally executed. At a minimum, your will should designate an executor who will distribute your property, beneficiaries who will receive your property, and guardians who will care for your children. You may ultimately decide to use a trust in addition to a will, which allows property to be distributed without having to use the probate process. However, the first step is to ensure you have a will in place. Keep in mind, you should revisit your will every few years to ensure it is still accurate and is not affected by any changes in the law.
A Power of Attorney.
A power of attorney is an essential planning tool for every adult. It is impossible to predict the future and while we hope for the best, it is smart to plan for the worst. A power of attorney allows someone else to act on your behalf when making financial and legal decisions. This typically comes into play when an individual becomes incapacitated. Powers of attorney can be temporary in duration or last until you pass away. They can also go into effect at different times. Some choose to have their power of attorney go into effect immediately when it’s signed; others choose to have it go into effect at a later point in time, such as when they become incapacitated. Without this document, the court may appoint an individual to make these decisions for you and it is a much more complex and expensive process.
An Advance Health Care Directive.
This document refers to your health care and medical wishes. In this document, you should designate an individual who will be your agent to speak for you and make medical decisions on your behalf should you be unable to make those decisions yourself. Additionally, you can and should designate specific instructions such as whether you want life sustaining treatment and your organ donation preferences. A complete, valid health care directive will allow family members and doctors to know and understand your wishes and ensure they are carried out.
These documents are not the only documents available when it comes to an estate plan, but are the three basic documents each adult should have completed, executed, and stored in a safe place. Questions or concerns? Give me a call at (858) 792-3444.