Dec 3, 2013 Stop Procrastinating! Essential Estate Planning Documents Everyone Needs
It’s 4:00 p.m. at work and you’ve been super productive to this point. You look down at your “To-Do” List and admire all the things crossed off and you’re immediately filled with the great feeling of accomplishment. Then, your attention is drawn to that one remaining item. The item that has been there for what seems like forever. The item that just will not go away. Those feelings of success are suddenly overtaken by the negative emotions of dread and hate. Your immediate reaction and decision is to put the remaining item on the back burner and handle it at a more convenient time. Unfortunately, you know deep down that such a time does not exist.
We’ve all experienced this before. Maybe it’s cleaning out those gutters that your wife has been asking you to clean for the past few weeks. Perhaps it’s putting together that baby book for your now 16 year old son. Procrastination affects us all.
One of the most commonly procrastinated items on our “To-Do” List is getting our estate plans in order. Maybe you keep putting it off because you don’t know where to start. Maybe you just don’t like thinking about your ultimate demise. I can’t do much about when or how you will die, but I can help in getting your estate plan started. The following is a list of the essential estate planning documents every household should have:
Last Will and Testament
The Last Will and Testament is a legal document which details to whom your assets will be distributed, and designates an individual who will manage your assets at your death.
In addition, if you have minor children it can designate an appropriate guardian for those children in the event you pass away prior to your children reaching the age of maturity.
Failing to execute a Last Will and Testament does not mean you are forfeiting your assets, or that your minor children will become wards of the state. However, it does mean your ability to designate where your assets go and who takes care of your minor children is lost. For instance, if you want your most prized possession, a 1972 Volkswagen Bus, to go to your youngest son, your Last Will and Testament will need to specify this. Otherwise, your most prized possession will need to be sold and the proceeds equally divided among your children.
To ensure this scenario never plays out and your hard earned assets go where you want them to go, a Last Will and Testament is a must.
Durable Power of Attorney
The Durable Power of Attorney grants your, “Agent” or “Attorney-in-Fact” the authority to act in your name. Depending on the authority granted in the Durable Power of Attorney your Agent can make financial or health care decisions for you immediately or upon your disability.
This power is imperative in the event you do become incapacitated and you need someone to handle your affairs during that time. Failure to execute a Durable Power of Attorney will require your family to seek a guardianship on your behalf, which is far more time consuming and costly than executing a Durable Power of Attorney right now.
Advanced Health Care Directive
This document is often times referred to as a “Living Will.” It details specific medical treatment you either want or don’t want in the event you are in a permanently vegetative state.
An Advanced Health Care Directive is important because it takes the difficult decision of what life sustaining treatment to pursue out of your family’s hands and into yours. Too many children stress over what medical treatment to provide their parents towards the end of their lives. This legal document makes that difficult decision that much easier.
The Last Will and Testament, Durable Power of Attorney, and Advanced Health Care Directive are essential estate planning documents everyone should have regardless of their circumstances. That’s not to say additional estate planning would not be beneficial. A revocable or irrevocable trust or other estate planning tools may be important depending on your situation and what you want to do with your assets. Therefore, when consulting with your attorney about the essential estate planning documents ask your attorney if additional measures need to be taken.
Stop procrastinating and get that estate planning item crossed off your list. Not only will it give you a huge sense of accomplishment, but it will provide you with the much needed peace of mind that comes with knowing your affairs are in order.
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