Estate planning is one of the most important tasks you will complete during your lifetime. Many people, however, delay estate planning for a few general reasons. The most common reasons center around the thought that they don’t have sufficient assets to justify the preparation of estate planning documents, cannot afford the legal costs involved, or do not want to think about such a difficult topic.
You can begin to plan your estate at any point in time. Even individuals with little assets (and especially minor children) benefit from basic estate planning documents. A trusted attorney may prepare these essential documents for a reasonable fee. So, what documents do you need? Generally, a comprehensive yet basic estate plan includes the following documents:
- Financial Power of Attorney
- Medical Power of Attorney
- HIPPA Release
- Living Will (if applicable)
- Organ Donation (if applicable)
A will is the central part of your estate plan. This document allows you to direct who will receive various assets within your estate and who manages your estate. A will also allows you to name a guardian for any minor children. Based on this information, a will may be the most important legal document you ever sign. Without a will, state law and a judge may decide who receives your property and cares for your minor children, respectively. If you want to make this vital decision, you will need to set up your will/estate plan as soon as possible.
FINANCIAL POWER OF ATTORNEY
A financial power of attorney allows you to name the person who makes all of your financial decisions currently and/or during a time of incapacity (durable). By specifically picking someone today to make these decisions, you help eliminate controversy and stress in the future. You also avoid the costly and lengthy legal process of having a court make these decisions.
MEDICAL POWER OF ATTORNEY
A medical power of attorney appoints an individual to make medical decisions if you cannot make these decisions for yourself. If you don’t have a medical power of attorney (also sometimes referred to as a “health care proxy”), the decision automatically goes to your spouse. If you are unmarried, then it goes to adult children, parents, or other party that a judge deems appropriate. Plan today so you, and not anyone else, can make decisions concerning your future healthcare.
Congress promulgated the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, also known as HIPAA, in 1996 to protect your private health information. The act prohibits health care providers from releasing your health care information unless you have provided an executed HIPAA release form. Absent this form, your health care providers are legally prohibited from disclosing your medical information with anyone who is not directly involved in your care. Make sure you have all necessary legal forms now to avoid potential problems in the future.
A living will spells out what specific medical treatments you do or do not want in the case of a medical situation that leaves you in a “terminal” condition. A living will may also address other major medical choices, such as whether or not to resuscitate, or whether or not to the signor wants artificial respiration.
Many clients say they have indicated their desire to donate organs via the symbol on their driver’s license. The referenced symbol evidences a desire. The surviving family, however, may still make the ultimate determination. By signing a specific document memorializing your desire, you clearly and legally evidence your intent. The person has the ability to decide for what purpose and what organs to apply the donation request.
There are many details to each document, and many details regarding your overall estate, including taxes. Being prepared and educated, you can make your wishes known. Talking to your loved ones also remains important in the planning process. Please do not delay in setting an appointment with our office so that we can discuss these important issues and create a detailed, yet affordable, estate plan for you and your family members.