In the absence of proper estate planning, medical care decisions can be delayed and families may face expensive and unnecessary costs. Think of your estate planning as a gift you can provide for your loved ones that will let them know you were thinking of them after you have passed. Grief is a painful process, even when loved ones have a long and full life. You can make it easier or harder for those you leave behind.
Make sure to state your wishes in the proper estate-planning documents. To complete these, consult with an estate planning attorney and keep the originals in a safe deposit box with a copy at home or on your computer. Some folk have their attorney hang on to the originals.
Nerd Wallet's article, "10 Keys to Proper Estate Planning," reminds us of the four key legal documents you should have in place, plus an additional one you might want to consider.
An advance health care directive indicates your healthcare choices and is used only when you are unable to communicate your wishes. Ask your estate planning attorney about the one specific to your state.
A power of attorney for finances lets you designate an individual to manage your financial affairs in the event you become incapacitated. If you fail to complete this form and you need help, a judge may appoint someone for you.
A HIPAA release form lets those named in your advance health care directive and your power of attorney access your healthcare information to work on insurance issues if you are unable to yourself.
A will allows your assets to be transferred as you've designated upon your death.
A living trust is another way to transfer property upon your death, which can be more confidential, faster, and more flexible than probate. With a living trust, your wishes may be less likely to be contested than with a probated will. A trust is an option, but it depends on your assets and your state laws. But if you have a trust, you still need to have a will.
By investing in an estate plan, you can protect your family from having to go through probate, ensure that your possessions are distributed in the manner in which you chose, and help your family avoid the expenses and stresses that happen when there is no estate plan in place. Show your loved ones you care – they will appreciate it as another gesture of your love for them.
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Reference: Nerd Wallet (March 11, 2016) "10 Keys to Proper Estate Planning"