October 31st, 2012 | written by Nancy Larson

Your estate plan should ideally include the following documents:

1.  A Health Care Power of Attorney, sometimes referred to as an Advanced Directive for Health Care, allows you to appoint a trusted person who makes health care and medical decision for you if you are not able.  This person must be someone you trust who will speak on your behalf and advocate for the care you would want if you could make the decisions yourself.

2.  A Property Power of Attorney is a separate document in which you appoint someone you trust implicitly to pay your bills, pay your taxes, and tend to all of your other financial matters if you are not able to do so yourself.  Not all power of attorney documents are created equal.  Be sure to seek advice from an attorney in the preparation of your property power of attorney as there are provisions which can be added to the document that may have far-reaching consequences based on your wishes and your unique situation.

3.  A plan for long-term care must address who will take care of you if you are unable to do so, where you will live and how your expenses will be paid.  Will you be able to stay in your home?  If so, how will help be paid?  Is your home safe?  Learn about long-term care insurance and if it is appropriate in your situation.

4.  An estate plan includes a Last Will & Testament, and sometimes a Trust, that allows you to direct the distribution of your assets at the time of your death.  These documents also direct that your bills and taxes are paid prior to distribution of your assets.  This is the time to review the beneficiaries on your insurance policies, IRAs, and other beneficiary-designated accounts.  The estate plan is where you plan for avoiding or reducing estate and inheritance taxes.

5.  A funeral and burial/cremation plan created by you lets your family and friends know what you want to happen.  You need to clearly communicate this so it comes as no surprise at the time of your death.  You may want to make a pre-arranged plan with a funeral home.

6.  Communicate your plan to whoever you have appointed to carry out your wishes.  Remember that they need to know what you want and what is important to you.  Tell them where your documents are kept so they can do their job the way you desire it to be done.

Autumn 2012