Essential DocumentsEssential Documents

A well-crafted estate plan will likely include certain essential documents. These help to ensure that your wishes are followed in any eventuality, including serious illness, incapacity, and death. They can also spare your loved ones the added burden of having to petition the courts for assistance in such circumstances. Perhaps most importantly, having these documents on file will bring you the peace of mind that comes from knowing that you are ready for whatever lies ahead.

Last Will & Testament

Your Last Will & Testament is the foundation of your plan. It gives detailed instructions as to how your assets are to be distributed in the event of your death. It also appoints individuals to oversee the administration of your estate and to serve as guardians for any minor children. Leaving no will behind would force the courts to choose these individuals on your behalf, with results that could well be contrary to your wishes, especially with LGBT families. For estate plans that include a trust, a Will may also state the terms of the trust and appoint the administrators, called trustees.

Financial Power of Attorney

A financial Power of Attorney authorizes a person you designate to take control of your finances if you become incapacitated. If the incapacity is temporary, you resume control after you are once again competent. This powerful document helps to ensure that your financial affairs are managed seamlessly during a difficult time. For example, the person you have designated, called your “attorney-in-fact,” can . . .

  • Use your assets to pay your mortgage, medical bills, and other expenses;
  • Buy, sell, or lease real estate in your name
  • Collect and manage your Social Security, Medicare, and other public benefits
  • Manage your banking and investments
  • Run your small business
  • File and pay your taxes.

Advance Medical Directive

Like a financial power of attorney, your Advance Medical Directive is an important document for times of illness, disability, or advanced age. It allows you to appoint a trusted relative or friend to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to understand your options or cannot speak for yourself. In an end-of-life situation, your Advance Medical Directive explains what kinds of medical treatment you want to receive—or decline. Spelling out your wishes for treatments like respirators, feeding tubes, and pain medication can be an enormous gift to your family members by assuring them that your wishes are being followed.