Estate plans may not seem like something you need to think about for a long time. Certainly, a will does not become effective until after you pass on, but other estate planning documents can protect your interests while you are still around.
If you become incapacitated, certain documents guide your medical care. Another document allows a responsible party to handle your financial affairs, in case you are unable to do so. Having these documents in place ensures your wishes are carried out correctly. It also prevents your family from having to make tough decisions they may be unprepared to make. Here are the four essential estate planning documents everyone should have to protect their best interests.
Last Will and Testament
In Ohio, a valid will needs to be written down and witnessed by two or more witnesses. A will stipulates how your assets are distributed upon your passing. If you want your home to pass on to your children, you must indicate this in your will. You can also stipulate how you want your bank accounts, cars, jewelry and any other valuables dispersed. Business owners can also name successors in their wills. If you have minor children, you can also name a guardian in your will.
Without a will, the court decides who gets custody of minor children, and that will usually be their closest relative. If you do not have a will, the probate court also divides your estate. This could lead to fighting among family members. It will also ensure your estate is not divided as you had desired.
General Durable Power of Attorney
A general durable power of attorney gives someone the authority to make financial decisions on your behalf. In case you become incapacitated, the person you appoint pays your bills, runs a business, manages your investments, pays your taxes and can even buy or sell your real estate. When picking a general power of attorney, you should select someone who is financially responsible, and that you trust to make decisions for you.
Health Care Power of Attorney
A health care power of attorney is like a general power of attorney. However, this person makes choices about the medical care you receive, if you are not able to voice such decisions on your own. Again, it is important to select someone you trust. You can pick the same person as the general power of attorney, or you may decide to name someone else to make health care choices for you.
A living will provides direction about medical care you receive, if you are unable to express this yourself. In this document, you can state what kind of life-prolonging treatments you want to receive. You can stipulate whether you want to receive blood transfusions, CPR, surgery or the use of a respirator. Perhaps you do not want to be put on a feeding tube, but would like to receive pain treatment, otherwise known as palliative care. You may also wish to include a do not resuscitate order. All of this can be included in a living will.
An estate planning attorney can advise you on any other information you may want to include in a living will. An attorney can also draw up the rest of your estate planning documents and ensure they are legally sound and binding.