As you consider the Estate Planning process, these are critical documents for you to have in place.
As your planning needs change over the years, your Will should be updated to manage these changes.
An up-to-date Will or Living Trust
Your first Will is usually prepared when there are young children in a family. Needs include passing property to the surviving spouse and naming a Guardian/Trustee to care for and protect the children. As children reach maturity, different concerns will emerge. Wills that were once adequate must be updated to meet new challenges and circumstances.
A Living Trust disposes of property in much the same way as a Will, while providing other benefits. A Living Trust is a simple and flexible way for you to hold and manage your property. It will also allow for others to act on your behalf at any time it may become necessary. If the Trust contains all your property, then the Estate passes free of probate.
A Durable Power of Attorney
Through this document, you appoint a person to manage your property if you become incapacitated. A Power of Attorney applies to property that you have not transferred into a Trust. Formal guardianships on your behalf are normally made unnecessary by this action.
A Living Will
Most states now authorize you to make a statement of your desires regarding medical treatment if you become terminally ill. Preferences about the use of "heroic efforts" and artificial life supports are frequently included.
A Health Care Power of Attorney
This document allows you to appoint a person to be your representative in making medical decisions for you at any time you are unable to make them yourself.