Estate Planning Essentials
With estate planning, one can ensure that personal property is transferred, upon death, to beneficiaries of the deceased's choosing. Also, parents can establish a guardian for their minor children, should the parents die before the children turn 18 years of age.
At some point in life, we all wonder "What will happen to my family when I die?" The idea of our mortality is often terrifying, but it doesn't have to be. Planning your estate with a few documents ahead of time is one way to make "meeting your maker" a little less frightening.
When preparing your estate, there are many different documents that you can use. One of the most important documents is the Last Will and Testament, which helps set a basic foundation for your estate. Some other important documents include the Power of Attorney, Health Care Surrogate, and the Living Will.
Last Will and Testament
Creating a Will allows you to not only designate who gets what, but also gives you the ability to choose who will be handling your estate when you are gone. You will be able to designate your "Personal Representative", who will make sure your property is distributed as you desire. Further, you will be able to make clear which of your loved ones gets your property, whether tangible or intangible. You are also able to designate second or third parties who will receive your property in the event that the first person is unable to receive that property.
Power of Attorney
A Last Will and Testament is one of the more important documents out of the estate planning process to meet your desires once you have passed on. However, one document that is important while you are still alive is the Power of Attorney.
The Power of Attorney defines who can help manage your estate before you pass away. The person designated is allowed to manage your finances. They can pay your mortgage, access your bank accounts, even vote for you. They are only allowed to do this, however, if you are incapacitated. If you cannot do these things yourself, whether you are unhealthy or even out of the country, they can act on your behalf.
Specific powers can be given to them or withheld from them. You still have the ability to determine how much power they are allowed.
Health Care Surrogate
The Health Care Surrogate is similar to the Power of Attorney. It allows the designated person to make decisions for you. The only difference is that it is for medical decisions only.
If, for example, you arrive unconscious to a hospital, and a decision must be made on whether to perform a life-changing surgery of some kind, they would be the one who could make that choice. Or if you needed them to obtain your medical records, they would be able to access those records.
The last of our main documents is the Living Will. This is basically a Do Not Resuscitate that comes into effect under certain circumstances. This document cannot be used for a minor health event, such as a toe surgery. It only comes into effect if you are mentally and physically incapacitated, and either:
- have a terminal condition
- have an end state condition
- are in a persistent vegetative state
These documents all ensure that you and your property are taken care of at the end of your life, as well as throughout your life. They ensure that you can rest easy knowing that you and your loved ones will be taken care of no matter what may happen to you.