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Life is extremely unpredictable, so it’s vital that everyone has three specific estate planning documents set up before tragedy unexpectedly strikes. These documents ensure that, if we become incapacitated or worse, someone in your life will have the authority to make medical and financial decisions on your behalf—and that they know how you would like them to make those decisions. By having just three estate planning documents in place, you can save your family time, money, stress and heartache by having these important decisions made ahead of time. Not only will you be able to rest assured that you will receive medical care and treatment in alignment with your wants and beliefs, but you will also gain peace of mind knowing that your loved ones and assets will be taken care of after you are gone.

The three documents that everyone needs are: a last will and testament, advanced directive for healthcare, and a power of attorney—or POA. These documents are crucial to setting out a plan for how you want your healthcare and assets handled.

Last Will and Testament

The last will and testament is a legal document that expresses how a person wants their estate to be distributed upon their death. If you have no will, it is called dying “intestate,” and a local probate court will determine how your assets are distributed. While the courts follow state laws to distribute your assets, your actual final wishes will be unknown. The only way to ensure your final wishes are followed through is by having a last will and testament.

Advanced Directive for Healthcare

The advanced directive for healthcare is a 2-part document and contains a living will and medical power of attorney, or healthcare proxy. The living will states what you do or do not want if you become incapacitated or injured to the point where you can or cannot survive without advanced measures. For example, your living will might state that you do not want a feeding tube, or to breathe with assistance. By setting out these instructions ahead of time, it will save your family a lot of stress and heartache, and they won’t have to wonder if they’re doing what you would have wanted. The medical POA names someone to help make these medical decisions. This person will work with your medical care team to make sure that your wishes are being granted, as well as ensuring that you’re receiving the best care possible.

Power of Attorney

A power or attorney, or POA, is designed to give someone else the authority to make financial decisions on your behalf while you are still alive. A POA will give someone else the ability to take care of your estate by doing such things as paying bills, signing important documents, selling assets, and more.

These three estate planning documents tell others what to do if you are incapacitated or pass away, leaving no questions or issues regarding your assets if drafted effectively. If you are looking for peace of mind knowing that your estate and health will be taken care of when you’re not able to physically make those decisions, then contact Miller Estate & Elder Law or register for one of our free estate planning workshops.

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