Are you in the process of reviewing your estate planning needs? If so, you'll likely start with a will, which is a basic estate planning document that directs how your assets should be distributed to your heirs. However, it's quite possible that you will need other documents besides a will. There are a number of things a will cannot achieve. For example, a will can direct who assets should go to, but it doesn't control when or how they receive those assets. It also doesn't address major issues such as end-of-life medical care and how your finances should be managed if you're incapacitated. Here are a few other documents that you may want to consider as part of your estate plan:
Advanced medical directives. These are documents that help your loved ones make medical decisions on your behalf should you be unable to do so. In some states, these are divided up into two documents: a medical directive and a durable healthcare power of attorney. A medical directive, also known as a living will, allows you to give instructions for specific healthcare situations, such as if you're on life support or if you are essentially brain dead. A healthcare power of attorney allows you to name a specific person as your healthcare decision maker.
In other states, these two items can be filed together as one document. Either way, they serve an important function. In many end-of-life scenarios, the person involved doesn't have the cognitive awareness to make sure his or her wishes are met. These documents can give your loved ones instructions on how to best meet your needs and wishes.
Financial power of attorney. This is another important document that can help your loved ones make decisions on your behalf as you near the end of your life. It allows you to name someone as your decision maker with regard to all of your financial decisions. They can pay your bills, write checks on your behalf, and even take out loans in your name.
Why would you need this? Assume you're suffering from a mental disease like Alzheimer's and are unable to pay your bills. Consider if you're in the hospital unconscious or on life support and aren't able to handle important business matters. With a financial power of attorney, a trusted friend or loved one could handle those issues for you.
Revocable trust. While a will allows you transfer assets to your loved ones, it may not be the most efficient way to do so. With a will, the estate will usually need to go through probate. This is a legal process in which the executor pays all debts, files taxes, sells any necessary assets, and gives potential heirs time to make a claim on the estate. It can delay the distribution of assets by months.
An alternative is to use a revocable trust, which allows you to distribute assets while avoiding the probate process. That means your heirs can get their assets faster.
For more information, contact Sever Law Office or a similar firm.