Documents are at the heart of your estate plan, but they have to be created with your unique situation in mind. Not having them, or not having the right ones, could put you and your children at risk, before and after your demise.
Everyone over the age of 18 should have certain documents that protect both life and property. These are the basics for your estate plan, says U.S. News & World Report in the article, “5 Documents You Need in Retirement.” They are used if you should become incapacitated or die, which can potentially occur any time. Most people don’t think about them until they are ready to retire, but there’s no reason not to have them in place now. Our firm has written a book on this subject, called “5@55: The 5 essential Documents You Need by Age 55”, which is available on Amazon.
A Will. This fundamental legal document provides your directions about how the property you own should be distributed after your death. It also names the person(s) who will manage your estate after you die, until your property is completely distributed. Hire a qualified estate planning attorney to be certain your will complies with federal and state laws. Working with a lawyer is vital, to be sure you will address all contingencies, if you suspect someone might contest your will.
Power of Attorney. You can appoint an agent using a Power of Attorney, (a Power of Attorney is a serious document that must be signed before a notary) to a friend or relative, so they can make financial decisions for you, in the event you can't do it yourself (either on a temporary or permanent basis).
Health Care Directive. This document designates a person who in effect serves as your agent for your health care, and it could be the same person as on your financial power of attorney. The document authorizes your agent to withhold or withdraw medical care or medically supplied nutrition, to admit or discharge you from a medical facility, and to hire or fire anyone who’s taking care of you. It can also provide guidance to your agent, if you have an irreversible medical condition. You can specify what type of care and treatment you want. You can add in information about whether and how to prolong life, provide palliative care only and if you want to donate your organs.
Personal Data Sheet & Digital Diary. While this isn’t an official document, it’s a very valuable record to have around to help your family or anyone else handling your estate. This document should list any significant property you own and what to do with it. List any bank or investment accounts, like IRA and 401(k) accounts. Write down the name of the financial institution(s), the account numbers, and the approximate balances and list any assets which you own digitally, or online assets, with the necessary sign in information and password.
Make sure to share these documents with your family. They will need to know where you have placed them. They’ll also need to know the name and contact information for your estate planning attorney.
Reference: U.S. News & World Report (October 11, 2018) “4 Documents You Need in Retirement”