We insist that every client walking through our door have a standard set of documents that are needed to assist in an array of the situation. While this is often referred to as “basic estate planning”, it is actually rather complicated. The following is a breakdown of the three documents:
1) General Durable Power of Attorney
This POA allows you to designate someone as your “Agent” to make personal and financial decisions on your behalf.
This document can be as broad or as limited as you wish. However, as and Elder Law attorney, I typically recommend the broadest powers possible, including: the power to make unlimited gifts, create trusts, and change beneficiary designations. These powers area often essential when planning for a loved one’s care and assuring they are protected financially.
2) Healthcare Power of Attorney/Advance Directive
This POA allows you to designate an individual to make medical and healthcare decisions, if you are unable to do so, and also to access your confidential medical records.
This document may also include your end-of-life wishes if you are unconscious, with a terminal conditioning from which there is no expected chance of regaining consciousness.
3) Last Will and Testament
Finally, the Will distributes your assets upon death to the individuals you designate. Having a Will assures that assets are distributed according to your wishes. The Will also designates an Executor, of your choosing, to carry out these wishes.
A Will can be as simple or complex as you like. For example, you could choose to leave everything to your spouse, children or charities. Alternatively, you could choose more complex planning to leave assets in trust for a disabled child or for grandchildren.
4) Additional Concerns
Along with the documents discussed above, it is important to have a list bank and financial accounts, life insurance policies, long term care insurance policies, and the name of your investment advisor (if you have one). Including the bank or institution name and the last three or four digits can help your family to identify assets and manage them on your behalf if you are unable to do so