The Importance of Having a Will and Estate Plan
Creating a will and estate plan is an easy way to avoid family disagreements, costly probate court hearings and unexpected complications after you pass away.
Create an estate plan to designate who will manage your finances and assets if you become mentally incapacitated or after you pass away.
What is a Will?
Creating an estate plan and will is one of the most essential steps you can take. Not only does it guarantee that your assets go to whomever you desire, but it also safeguards your surviving spouse and heirs in case you pass away.
Even if you don’t have much to leave behind, having a will makes the probate process faster and simpler for your family members. It also prevents any arguments over heirlooms, money, or other possessions.
Another purpose for having a will is to designate guardians for your children in the event you or your spouse pass away prematurely. Without an advance directive, this decision would be left up to the state.
Wills can take many forms, but all should clearly indicate who should inherit your property upon your death. They also specify an executor, guardians and conservator for your protection.
Wills and Trusts
A Will and Estate Plan is the best way to guarantee your assets are passed on according to your wishes. Additionally, it can help avoid family discord and costly legal expenses.
Your will should specify who you want as your executor and guardians of any minor children or individuals you have cared for. It should also name who would make medical and financial decisions in your absence, should you become unable to do so yourself.
Make a list of all your accounts, including checking and savings account designations that transfer the balance to beneficiaries upon your death.
Selecting an attorney and financial planner to work with you on creating your plan can be essential. Involving your family in the process of creating this document allows them to be more involved and ensure their wishes are being followed.
Durable Power of Attorney
A durable power of attorney is one of the most essential legal documents to have. It enables you to appoint someone to handle your financial and legal affairs if ever you become incapacitated or unable to make your own decisions.
Create a power of attorney using several tools. Quicken WillMaker and LegalZoom both offer downloadable software to assist in drafting either medical powers of attorney or durable powers of attorney.
It’s wise to appoint an alternate or backup agent, as well as create a health care proxy or living will. These documents grant your chosen agents authority to make medical decisions on your behalf, such as which life-extending treatments you wish for and which you don’t.
A durable power of attorney also permits you to select a guardian for your children or pets, and state how you wish your estate to be distributed upon death. These important estate planning documents can shield you and your loved ones from costly and time-consuming probate proceedings.
Health Care Directives
Health care directives are a way for you to communicate your medical preferences when unable to express them yourself. They instruct doctors and family members about your desired treatments in the event that you become terminally ill, injured, in a coma, or have advanced dementia.
Health insurance policies are essential for all adults, regardless of age. Having them in place gives you and your loved ones peace of mind while making medical care decisions with clarity.
Advance healthcare directives include living wills, durable powers of attorney for health care and patient advocate designations. These legal documents give your medical care agent (the person you name in a power of attorney) the authority to carry out your instructions should you become incapacitated. As laws and requirements vary by state, it’s essential to know what applies in your specific situation.