Why Estate Planning?

The main
goal of estate planning is to safeguard your loved ones after you’re gone, and
to protect yourself if you’re incapacitated during your lifetime.  There are 5 legal documents that you will
need:

 

1)     A Will.  This document explains how you want your
assets distributed after you die.  If you
don’t have one, State law makes the decision for you.  You will also name a guardian for your children.  For more information go to:  www.mystatewill.com

 

2)     A Durable Power of Attorney.  This document names
a trusted person or institution to handle your finances if you are
incapacitated.  If you were in the
hospital, the person you choose has legal authority to write checks on your bank
accounts, etc.  You can revoke this
document at any time.  If you do not, it
is valid until you die.  A power of
attorney that isn’t durable expires if you become legally incompetent – exactly
when you want it to work.

 

3)     A Health Care Proxy.  This document gives someone you
trust the legal right to make medical decisions on your behalf if you can’t
speak for yourself.

 

4)     A Living Will.  This describes the medical treatments you
want and don’t want if you are unable to make decisions.  An example would be that you may choose to
not be kept alive by artificial means.

 

5)     Copies of Beneficiary Designations.  These are
your records of any retirement accounts and the forms you filed with your IRA
provider and the administrator of your employer sponsored retirement plans such
as 401 (k), 403 (b) and 457s.  These
forms are very important – They – NOT
YOUR WILL
– determine who gets your accounts when you die.  If you don’t have copies, ask your account
custodian or plan administrator to send you a copy.

 

6)     A Trust.  This is something you may or may not need –
depending on circumstances.  Different
types of trusts can help you leave money to a minor, disabled child, or
grandchild, or to provide a lifetime income to a surviving spouse or children
from a prior marriage.

 

Estate
planning documents are typically prepared as a package by an attorney who
specializes in estate law.  Check the
Martindale-Hubble Law Directory at www.martindale.com
– it covers all legal specialties and provides basic information to attorneys’
websites.  You can also ask friends or
family for recommendations in searching for an attorney.  Lastly, you can contact your local bar
association for referrals.

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