While it’s not a pleasant subject to think about, making sure that you have the necessary documents in place before your death is an important step for any adult. When we prepare the right documents our wishes and estate are handled with care.
Here are seven documents you should consider having in place.
Will – A will is a legal document that outlines how you wish your assets and personal belongings to be distributed after your passing. It also names guardians for minor children, as well as a designated executor to handle the distribution of your assets.
If you die without a will, the laws of your state will decide how your property is divided among family members or other heirs. So, it’s important to create one to make sure your assets go where you want them to when you’re gone.
Trust – A trust is similar to a will in that it outlines how your property should be handled after you're gone.
However, while a will only takes effect after death, trusts become effective immediately upon creation and can provide financial stability for beneficiaries during life as well as after death. Trusts can also help individuals avoid probate court and minimize estate taxes.
Power of Attorney – A power of attorney document grants someone else authority to act on your behalf in legal matters or financial transactions if you become incapacitated or are no longer able to manage your own affairs due to illness or injury.
Health Care Power of Attorney – This type of power of attorney document grants
another person the authority to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so yourself due to illness or injury.
Living Will (Health Care Directive) – A living will lays out your wishes regarding medical treatment if you become terminally ill or permanently unconscious.
The terms Living Will and Health Care Directive are the same thing.
Some states interchange the terms while others use one or the other
and the required information in these documents can vary by state.
Since the terms of your directive are binding once it is signed, be sure to review your document if your desires change.
HIPPA Release To Your Family – The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects your rights as a patient by giving you control over
who has access to your health information. This release allows you to designate specific people—such as family members—to have access to your health information when needed.
Letter Of Intent - This document outlines your wishes regarding end-of-life care and other issues, such as organ donation and funeral arrangements.
It's important because it helps your family better understand what you want without having any guesswork involved in the decision-making processes during times of grief and sadness.
Preparing these legally binding documents before your death can ensure that your
wishes are honored so that those left behind clearly understand what needs to be done with regard to distributing assets, handling finances, guardianship and much more.
An estate planning attorney can help you draft these documents properly to truly reflect your intentions while still adhering to state laws governing wills and trusts.
Taking this step now can provide peace-of-mind knowing that
everything has been taken care of when you're not here to direct your desires.