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3 Estate Planning Documents You Probably Need

By Daniel Taylor, Esq. on August 07, 2014 12:02 PM

This post was updated on March 31, 2022

There comes a time in life when you start thinking about how to make sure your family and loved ones have what they need when you die. The prospect of making an estate plan for their benefit might seem a bit daunting. But if you break things down into parts it becomes easier.

One good way to start is to think about the kinds of documents you will need for an effective estate plan. Here we list three of the primary ones that are essential for you to include. For your convenience, these documents are available on FindLaw Legal Forms & Services for you to complete from the comfort of your home at an affordable price.

1. A Last Will and Testament

A last will and testament is the document you need to direct the distribution of your property and the handling of your affairs. A well-written will eases the transition for survivors by transferring property quickly to your chosen beneficiaries. You can also name a guardian for your children, name a caregiver for your pet, or donate some (or all) of your estate to charity. Unless you have a complex estate, creating a will is something you can do yourself if you have the proper tools.

2. A Financial Power of Attorney

A financial power of attorney allows you to designate a family member, a loved one, or a professional like an attorney or accountant to make certain financial decisions for you if you are incapacitated or unable to make decisions yourself for any reason. You can also grant financial power of attorney to multiple people.

This document will grant the person you designate the authority to pay your bills, make purchases, manage investments, or even sell property. This power ends upon your death, when the executor of your estate will have the power to manage your estate's affairs.

It is important that you think about who you want to grant this power to. Designate someone who you can trust to act responsibly and will have your best interests in mind.

3. A Health Care Directive and Living Will

A health care directive and living will allows you to specify your medical decisions in the event of an emergency when you may not be able to consent to any treatment. It also allows you to appointing a health care agent to speak with medical providers on your behalf.

There will be many important questions to think through when creating a health care directive and living will. First will be picking the right person to act as your agent. The next will be answering questions about the type of treatment you wish to receive. Do you want doctors to perform CPR if you suffer a heart attack while on the operating table? Do you want to be hooked up to life support if you are in a coma or persistent vegetative state? This document dictates the type of life-prolonging treatment doctors can provide if you are unable to communicate your desires.

Again, these are documents that you can create on your own and save money. Each is available for purchase here at FindLaw.

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