Getting started with your estate plan can feel daunting. Without the guidance of a trusted estate planning lawyer, you may not know where to begin—and what complicates things is that different individuals have different estate planning needs. There is no blueprint here; no one-size-fits-all approach.
With that said, there are a few basic documents that the vast majority of estate plans will need. By getting these documents in place, you can lay a great foundation for your estate plan.
Three Essential Documents for Your Estate Plan
- A will.
If you have a will in place, then you have some way of ensuring that your assets are distributed in the way you want them to be—as opposed to the way the probate court decides. As such, having a will is a good starting point for any estate plan.
That’s really what a will is all about—listing all your assets (bank accounts, stocks that you own, jewelry, real estate, heirlooms), then outlining who you wish to receive each. Not only does having a will help you make your wishes clear, but it can also minimize tension and conflict among the family members who survive you.
Additionally, your will is where you name the people you wish to serve as guardians of your children, in the event that both you and your co-parent die. For those with kids under 18, the ability to specify guardians is a huge advantage of having a will.
- A living will.
A will takes effect after you die—but a living will is something that can be invoked while you’re still alive. Basically, the living will is the document where you articulate what you want to happen in the event that you become incapacitated, fall into a coma, etc.
Using your living will, you can state whether you wish to receive life support and feeding tubes; you can state when you wish such life-saving instruments to be removed; and you can also name the individuals who you trust to make medical decisions for you when you are incapacitated.
Living wills help you express your own wishes, but they can also be tremendously valuable to your family members—preventing them from having to make big, emotionally burdensome decisions without having a clear sense of your wishes.
- A Power of Attorney.
Imagine this scenario: You are stuck in a hospital, incapacitated in some way. Aside from medical issues, though, you still have bills to pay—like your monthly mortgage statement. And while you are in the hospital, you’ll also have some medical bills stack up. The question is, how can you pay these bills while you are incapacitated?
A Power of Attorney document allows you to name the individual who you trust to make financial and legal decisions on your behalf. Most of the time, you will want this person to be your spouse or, if you are not married, an adult child.
A Power of Attorney is one of those things you hope you’ll never have to use—but just having it in place can provide amazing peace of mind.
Get Your Estate Planning in Order
The estate planning process may sometimes seem cumbersome—but by focusing on these three basics, you can lay a strong foundation.
One way you can ensure the right documents is to consult with a seasoned estate planning attorney—like the lawyers at Singh Law Firm.
We can help you put all the right estate planning pieces into place. Contact us today to set up a consultation.