Most utilized estate planning documents

A basic estate plan consists of a Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy and Last Will and Testament. Having these documents as part of your basic estate plan will help you identify and address whatever legal, health, or financial issues you might encounter.

Durable Power of Attorney

WE often tell our clients if they have a well written, comprehensive Power of Attorney, we can accomplish (almost) anything needed. A Power of Attorney is an essential document to make sure your property, financial, and/or legal decisions are made effectively and efficiently by the person you trust (known as your agent). It is critically important the attorney preparing your Power of Attorney is aware of the many changes this document has undergone in the past decade, and how to maximize the efficiency and ease of use.  Too often, a new client will come in to our office with a Power of Attorney prepared by a “general practitioner” who does not regularly practice in this area, and critical language will be missing.  Without the authority given in a properly prepared and executed Power of Attorney, your family’s only other option might be a guardianship, which can be a long, public and expensive proceeding.

Health Care Proxy

EVERY person should have a Health Care Proxy.  The Health Care Proxy authorizes an agent (usually a family member) to make decisions regarding your medical care if you are no longer able to decide for yourself.  Also, the agent is designated to represent your wishes, so you should talk to your agent about important health care decisions including artificial respiration and hydration, tube feeding and other end of life decisions.  Hospitals and doctors must follow your health care agent’s decisions as if they were your own.  It can also indicate your intention to donate certain or all organs and tissue.  If you wish to donate organs and tissue.

Last Will and Testament

WE will save the trust discussion for another blog.  Many of our clients do not wish to put their property in trust, and we create a Last Will and Testament to meet the needs of their estate plan. The purpose of the Last Will and Testament is to direct how their estate is to be distributed, who will be the beneficiaries and who will represent the estate, known as the Executor or Personal Representative.  Often, the Last Will and Testament will authorize the creation of Testamentary Trusts, which would be created and funded after their death.  One example of a Testamentary Trust contained within a Last Will and Testament is when the property in the Last Will and Testament may be distributed to minor beneficiaries, and the creator of the Last Will and Testament would wish the property be held until the minor child achieves a certain age. Again, it is of the utmost importance that the Last Will and Testament is prepared according to the laws of the domicile state.  For example, some states require three witnesses, others require two.