It’s common for people to hear “estate plan” and assume that it’s an individual’s last will and testament. However, an estate plan is so much more than that. An estate plan is a highly customizable set of documents that protects your assets during your life and upon your death as well as explains how you want them passed down. Life is unpredictable, but you don’t have to leave your estate in the hands of the state – which dictates who receives your assets if you do not. By having an estate plan in place with these three documents you and your family can have the peace of mind that your wishes will be known and carried out in the event of incapacitation or death.
Last Will and Testament
The last will and testament is a legal document that explains how an individual would like their assets distributed upon their death. When there is no will left behind, it is called dying “intestate”. The estate must then enter probate court so that the court can decide how the assets will be divided and distributed. This can be costly, time-consuming, and stressful for the family left behind. While the courts do follow state laws to ensure that this is done fairly, your actual wishes will remain unknown. The only way to ensure that your estate is distributed according to your wishes is to have a valid last will and testament.
Advanced Directive for Health Care / Health Care Power of Attorney
An advanced directive for healthcare provides directions to their health care representative that articulates their wishes in the circumstance the individual is incapacitated and unable to verbally state their decisions themselves. The advanced directive for healthcare contains documents that give instructions on the type of end-of-life care you would like to receive. For example, if you do not wish to have a feeding tube or be on life support, then this is the document where you would state these wishes.
A health care power of attorney allows an individual to name a representative to direct their medical care when they are unable to direct it for themselves. Some states combine the advance directive for health care and health care power of attorney into one document.
Durable Power of Attorney
If you were to ever become incapacitated, a durable power of attorney (or POA) would be vital to ensure that your health crisis does not create a financial crisis. The durable POA would allow the individual whom you designated to oversee your financial affairs while you are incapacitated.
These three documents are vital to any estate plan. If you need assistance in creating your estate plan, please do not hesitate to contact the dedicated team at Caress Law either by calling (503) 292-8990 or using the contact form on our website. Caress Law, PC also offers a Family Protector Program, which is a monthly program designed to ensure your family is protected now, and in the future. Contact us to learn more about this valuable program.