Estate Planning Must-Haves

05/08/2014

Here are the four estate-planning documents everyone needs.

Don't think you really need a will? Think again! Creating a will with a qualified estate planning attorney is the best way to ensure your wishes will be honored and moved quickly through the legal process.

As The Wall Street Journal warns in "Four Estate-Planning Documents Everyone Should Have": "There may be a temptation to do a will on the cheap, using online resources. Tread warily. Small details can end up invalidating wills or leaving your wishes unfulfilled."

A power of attorney gives an individual the authority to act as your "agent" and make legal and financial decisions in the event you become incapacitated.

Take some time and think about this-unlike an executor, this could end up being a regular position. Also, you should name a backup.

A medical power of attorney or a health-care proxy permits the individual you designate to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to make them on your own. The article advises to select a person whom you think will stay calm in a crisis.

A living will, which is also called an advanced health-care directive, sets out written details regarding your wishes for end-of-life care. This living will includes whether you want to be resuscitated if your breathing or heartbeat stops, or whether you want to be kept alive through artificial respiration or feeding.

The original article counsels you to sit down and have a conversation with loved ones about your wishes, the contents of your medical power of attorney and your living will. It may not be easy, but will be a blessing during a tough time for your family.

One more thing: Keep your important documents, financial records, and doctors and medication up-to-date and in a central location (but not in a safe-deposit box, because that will take a power of attorney to access, unless you have given your key decision makers formal access to it).

Get going!