Estate planning is not something most of us think about regularly. We might be too busy or focused on building the lives we want, but the unexpected can happen. In a worst-case scenario, you will want a plan in place for your family to know how important affairs are handled, who you would like to make key decisions, and how you want your assets divided. If you are looking to begin an estate plan but do not know where to start, we have detailed three must-have documents for estate planning to lay a foundation.
In This Article
Everyone Can Benefit from an Estate Plan
First, you should understand that estate planning is not just for the rich or the elderly. Regardless of age or economic status, estate planning is prudent if you have a family or assets you care about. Should you be stricken with sickness or incapacitated and unable to make your own decisions, you can still ensure your wishes are followed. It will bring you and your loved one’s peace of mind.
An estate plan lawyer in Shelby, NC, can help local clients and their families plan for the future together. Our legal team wants to make sure that you are the one who decides how your assets and property are distributed.
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What is Estate Planning?
Estate planning is arranging how your assets will be managed and distributed and who will be designated to make important decisions in the event of death or incapacitation. Here are three must-have documents to help you set up an estate plan:
1. A Will
A will is the most well-known estate planning document. Also called a last will and testament, a will is a legal document that enumerates how you want your personal property and other assets divided after you pass away. Your will should list the assets you are leaving, the people you are leaving them to, and the portion of the assets you are leaving them.
Planning your will and estate can be an overwhelming process. A wills and estate lawyer from our team can help you consider all relevant facets of an estate plan.
Include Who Will Care for Your Children
If you have children, your will should also include a guardianship designation. You will want to ensure your children are cared for by someone you trust to raise them. Consider their personal and religious beliefs and values, financial situation, age and physical capability, location, and the special needs of the children. A backup guardian should also be named if your first choice cannot take the role. Remember, if you do not decide who cares for your children and how your assets are distributed, the state will.
You Can Include Funeral Arrangements in Your Will
You may include final arrangements in your will, but as wills are usually not seen until weeks after a death, you should create a separate document with this same information and make sure it is accessible to your loved ones.
2. Durable Healthcare Power-of-Attorney
It is also important to name a health care proxy. Your health care proxy is the person to whom you give healthcare power-of-attorney. They are legally authorized to make medical decisions on your behalf. This should be someone whose judgment you trust and whose beliefs align with yours. A standard healthcare power-of-attorney document only permits another person until you revoke it or until death or mental incapacitation. However, a durable power-of-attorney remains in effect even after you are mentally incapable of making your own decisions.
Be sure to speak with this person before assigning durable healthcare power-of-attorney to make sure they understand your medical preferences about life-saving procedures, life-support care, and medications. In North Carolina, the health care power-of-attorney document is combined with the healthcare directive in a single document.
In a healthcare power-of-attorney document, you can express your medical preferences in a life-threatening situation that renders you unconscious or otherwise mentally incapacitated. It includes medical treatments you would like to receive and those you would reject. Often this involves preferences for or against ventilators, feeding tubes, dialysis, and palliative care (for soothing pain and making you more comfortable). You can also include organ or tissue donation preferences.
3. Durable Financial Power-of-Attorney
If you cannot make your own financial decisions, you can designate someone with durable financial power of attorney. They can then manage your bank or investment accounts, file taxes, sell property, or sign checks on your behalf in the event you cannot. But, again, choosing someone you trust to make these decisions is better than the court deciding who to put in charge.
Learn More by Contacting a Wills and Estate Attorney from Our Firm Today
It is never too soon to create an estate plan. It will give you and your family peace of mind to know your wishes regarding how certain things will be handled in the unfortunate event that you pass away or become mentally incompetent.
A wills and estates lawyer at Farmer & Morris Law, PLLC can help you draft these three must-have estate planning documents and create a comprehensive plan to ensure your loved ones are financially taken care of and your wishes are fulfilled. Call us today to learn more.