The Four Pillars of a Strong Family & Estate Plan
Making a comprehensive plan requires looking at a variety of things, and here I will discuss the four critical parts of an estate plan that all parents should have to make sure their family is totally protected.
#1: Will or Trust
A will or a trust is the foundational document of your estate plan. In our practice, we prefer trusts, but whatever document you decide, this is what determines who gets your property. It will name those people and make sure that your assets are distributed through the probate process or an administration.
#2: Power of Attorney
When you create a power of attorney, you appoint somebody to be your financial agent and take care of financial matters when you are unable to do so. This could be for a period of time that you are disabled in a way that renders you unable to make those financial decisions. It's a critical component of any estate plan, since you want to make sure that you are covered in the event of a temporary situation where you need somebody to take care of your financial affairs.
#3: Healthcare Documents
Documents related to your own personal health include documents that appoint a healthcare agent who can make healthcare decisions on your behalf and a living will with you wishes for end-of-life care. HIPAA authorizations, which are letters that allow certain individuals to acquire information about your health. These authorizations make sure that these individuals can talk to your doctors or to a hospital, and find out what's going on with you.
#4: Childcare and Guardians
Last, but by no means least, parents of young children will need to name guardians. We recommend that you have two different types of guardians. One is a long-term guardian who you would want to have custody of the kids in the event that you pass away unexpectedly. Second, we also recommend that people name what we call first responders; these are people that can respond in a temporary emergency to step in and take the kids for a short period of time, whether due to a medical emergency, getting stranded while traveling, or some other situation. It's an absolutely critical piece, because it makes sure that your kids don't accidentally end up in foster care, which is a result that no parent should ever want.
These are the four critical pieces you should have in your estate plan. If you have any questions about any of them or you want to talk further with us, feel free as always to let us know. We'd be happy to help you as best we can.