There are horror stories of families torn apart because there were no legal documents outlining the person’s wishes.
Here is a list of the documents that estate planning attorneys recommend that you have in place.
1. Last Will & Testament:
- Who will receive your assets? Who will take care of minor children? Who will be the executor of your will to make sure that your wishes are followed? All important things to consider. But, remember, it can be changed at any time.
2. Living Will:
- This outlines your “end-of-life” care should you become terminally ill or permanently unconscious. It ensures that your wishes about when to end your life will be followed.
3. Trust Agreement:
- It’s a legal document providing management of your assets. There are two kinds of trust:
a. Living Trust:
- It is in effect during your lifetime if you are mentally incapacitated.
b. Testamentary Trust:
- It goes into effect after your death.
- Basically, a trust agreement is a document that appoints a “trustee” who will be responsible for managing your assets and how they will be distributed…assets such as real property, IRA’s, annuities, personal property, etc.
4. Power of Attorney:
- Allows someone to act on your behalf for legal decisions. There are two kinds:
a. Durable Power of Attorney:
- for ALL legal decisions
b. Sprinter Power of Attorney:
- Only used for a stipulated event (such as signing mortgage documents if you are not available to sign)
5. Healthcare Power of Attorney:
- This gives a trusted person(s) the authority to make medical treatment decisions if you are unable to do so on your own. You could give your Healthcare Power of Attorney to one person and your Durable Power of Attorney to another.
6. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) Release Document:
- Your medical records are confidential. This documents gives legal authority to share your medical record with family if you become incapacitated.
7. Letter of Intent:
- This is a non-binding letter where you tell your family and loved ones about your special requests. Who will get personal items (like grandma’s wedding ring). What type of funeral you want (party at your favorite restaurant) or if you’d liked a burial service or cremation.
Before you hire an estate attorney, be sure to interview them first. Attorneys are required to provide one hour of free consultation so you can decide if they are the right lawyer for you. In addition, get recommendations from family and friends and ASK them for names of people they have assisted.