Estate planning is like taking a roll call to make sure everything is in place. Just like you need all your classmates in school, you need specific legal tools for a complete estate plan. These tools help you decide what happens to your stuff and your care in case something happens to you.
Will or Trust
For a good estate plan, you start with either a will or a trust. Wills and trusts are like blueprints that tell people what to do with your things when you’re not around. A will only works after you’re gone, but a trust can also help if you’re unable to make decisions when you’re still alive.
A will might send your stuff through a legal process called probate when you pass away. Some things can skip this process if you’ve planned ahead. In a will, you choose someone to carry out your wishes and give your things to the right people. This person is usually called an executor or executrix.
On the other hand, a trust can keep your things out of probate if you put all your stuff in it or transfer them to it. Trusts can also help if you can’t make decisions for yourself.
Even if you use a trust, you still need a will, but it’s a special kind called a pour-over will. It makes sure anything not in your trust goes there when you’re no longer around. It can also help you pick guardians for your kids and plan your funeral.
Another tool is a testamentary trust, which gets set up when you pass away. Just like a trust, it helps decide where your things go, but it happens during the probate process.
Financial Power of Attorney
A financial power of attorney is a document that gives someone the power to handle your money and property if you can’t. Depending on what you put in it, it can be really specific or very broad. It can start working right away or only when you can’t make decisions for yourself anymore. A durable power of attorney keeps working even if you can’t make decisions.
Medical Power of Attorney
If you can’t make medical decisions, a medical power of attorney lets you choose who makes them for you. You can also say when this power starts. It’s important to have control over your medical care.
An advance healthcare directive, often called a living will, lets you say what kind of care you want if you’re very sick and can’t speak for yourself. It’s not the same as a ‘do not resuscitate’ order, which is made at the hospital and is just about CPR.
HIPAA authorization lets you decide who can see your medical records. It’s important for keeping your health information private.
Appointment of Guardian
If you have kids, you need a plan for their care. In some states, there’s a separate document for this, but you can also include it in your will. An attorney can help you make the right choice.
Temporary Guardianship or Delegation of Parental Authority
Sometimes, you can’t be with your kids for a while, like when you’re traveling. You can nominate a temporary guardian to make decisions for your kids during that time. Different states have rules for this.
So, just like in a roll call, you need all these legal tools to make sure your estate plan is complete. You can talk to an estate planning attorney to help you with these important decisions.”