Will. This is the foundation of any estate plan and everyone should have one. A will outlines how you’d like your assets and property to be distributed when you die. It also indicates the guardianship of any minor children in your care, and bequests (like family heirlooms) you have. If you don’t designate this, the state may decide for you (and the court may decide who will care for your children.) Even if you created other instruments to control or protect your assets, a properly constructed, legally sound will is essential. .
Trusts. Some people benefit from the creation of trusts that control their assets while avoiding probate. These are particularly useful if you have minor children, are the guardian of a disabled adult, or have specific legal or financial requirements. Ask your attorney which types of trust might be best for your particular situation
Durable Power of Attorney. This document grants broad authority to your executor or trustee to fulfill the terms of your bequest. Power of attorney is a critical part of planning your estate, and can affect how quickly and effectively your estate is settled. Without it, the job of executing an estate can be incredibly difficult and frustrating for your executor.
Living Will. This document sets out how you wish to be treated in the event of a life-threatening medical emergency, and indicates whether you’d like extraordinary measures to be taken (or not taken) to prolong your life. A living will clearly states your intentions and indicates what kind of medical treatment you will allow. A living will is essential not only for your peace of mind, but for the peace of mind of your loved ones.
Advanced Health Care Directives. These make your wishes for medical treatment known, and confer powers similar to a Power of Attorney (such a directive is in fact known as a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care), but grants a surrogate (aka health-care proxy) power to make decisions about your medical treatment. This is essential in case you become incapacitated and cannot communicate your wishes.
HIPAA Release Form. HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) protects the confidentiality and security of healthcare information. Medical professionals are required to get patient authorization before they share medical information with third parties (even if those parties are your closest loved ones.) A HIPAA release form will save your caregivers time and aggravation, and make it much easier for them to look after your best interests should you fall ill.
Guardianship Determinations. Guardianship of minor children can generally be dealt with in your will, but if you care for an incapacitated adult or a child with special medical needs, it’s important that you spell out exactly how they are to be cared for in the event of your death.
Guide to Digital Assets. This is not a legal document, but something you can put together yourself. The purpose is to make your digital information available to your loved ones after your death. You should include, at the very least, passwords to any online accounts you have.
Funeral Arrangements. Most people prefer to put this off, but it can be a great help to those who must manage your affairs after you are gone. This is not a legal document, just something helpful to those who must take care of matters after your decease.
Questions about estate planning? Call for a free consultation at (856) 227-7888 to discuss your legal options. Serving all South Jersey.