Basic estate planning documents everyone should have

A comprehensive package of life planning documents, consisting of a Health Care Surrogate, Living Will, and Durable Power of Attorney, is vital for ensuring that you are taken care of in the event of your incapacitation.

Why it matters: Nominating a person to make decisions on your behalf in a binding legal document removes ambiguity and uncertainty if you are hospitalized or otherwise unable to make decisions for yourself.

  • This is especially important for unmarried individuals, those whose spouse has predeceased them, or individuals with blended families.
  • Without these documents in place, you may need a guardian appointed for you if you are incapacitated, a process that requires costly, time-intensive court action.

What you need: A comprehensive life plan consists of three documents that work in tandem with one another to provide you maximum coverage.

  • A Health Care Surrogate allows your nominee to make health care decisions for you.
  • A Living Will informs your doctors that you do not wish to have extraordinary means taken to keep you alive, should you have no possibility of recovery and certain other conditions are met.
  • A Durable Power of Attorney allows your nominee to make financial decisions for you, such as accessing your bank funds, applying for federal benefits, and paying your bills.
  • Your nominee should be someone you trust, who is well-equipped to make these decisions on your behalf, and you should have at least two backup options named as well.

Who to inform: Provide these documents to your doctors during your next appointment, and inform your loved ones that you have life planning documents on file.

  • Your life planning documents do not need to be filed with any court or made public.
  • You do not need to share the content of these documents with your nominees.
  • Have conversations about the responsibilities of being a nominee with the people you intend to nominate, to ensure they understand the responsibility and that you feel comfortable choosing them.
Michael Faehner

Michael J. Faehner

Michael J. Faehner is the founder of Faehner PLLC in Oldsmar, Florida. Michael focuses his practice on estate planning, corporate,…

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