Estate planning doesn’t have to be complicated and isn’t only limited to people with a high net worth. Everyone should have an estate plan. It allows others to carry out your wishes, during your life, and after your death. There are three main documents:
1. Last will & testament;
2. Durable financial power of attorney; and
3. Health care power of attorney.
What Is a Last Will and Testament?
Simply put, a will is a legally-binding document that outlines your wishes for the distribution of your assets in the event of your death. When drafting a will, you appoint an executor, an individual who will be responsible for ensuring that your wishes are carried out. In a will, you can:
- Decide how your property will be distributed after your death.
- Designate a guardian for your children.
- Choose people and organizations you would like to leave money to.
- Pass along digital or computer-related information.
Having a will at the time of your death helps your family avoid a complex and emotionally exhausting probate process. During probate, the court oversees the distribution of a person’s property after his or her death—and if your wishes are clear, the probate process will go much more smoothly. Wills only go into effect after your death. Writing a will is also only one aspect of the estate planning process.
What Is a Durable Financial Power of Attorney?
This is a document wherein you give someone authority to make financial decisions for you during your lifetime if you are unable to do so. This becomes very important if you become incompetent or unable to handle your finances for yourself. When drafting a power of attorney, you name an agent, who has the authority to make financial decisions on your behalf. It is always a good idea to also name an alternate in case something happens and your primary agent is unable to fulfill her duties. A durable financial power of attorney is the most important estate planning document a person can have. It makes sure you will be taken care of during your lifetime.
What Is a Health Care Power of Attorney/Advanced Directive?
This is a document where you give someone authority to make health care decisions on your behalf, when (and only when) a doctor declares you are unable to make those decisions for yourself. You can also provide guidance to your health care agent as to your choices when faced with an end-stage medical condition and/or permanent unconsciousness. This helps ease the burden of those having to make difficult decisions on your behalf.
Here at Kreisher Marshall & Associates, LLC, we help families in the Bloomsburg and Columbia County areas draft wills and estate plans. We understand the process can be difficult, and we do our best to remain helpful and compassionate. Contact our Bloomsburg estate planning attorneys today at (570) 784-5211 for additional information.