Legal documents (Will, basic estate planning)

There are three basic legal documents that every person should have.

  • Will
  • Durable power of attorney
  • Health care power of attorney

One important thing to remember is that if you do not take the time to create a will the state that you live in has one for you. The term intestate means to die without a will. Every state has intestate laws that determine how your assets will pass if you die without a will.

A durable power of attorney allows someone who you choose to make financial decisions if you are incapacitated and cannot make them for yourself.

Many people feel that they don’t need a durable power of attorney if they have a spouse. That may be the case if all assets are titled jointly. But what if one asset isn’t? Or, what if both you and your spouse are incapacitated at the same time? In those cases it makes sense to have a power of attorney document that names a successor as well.
If there is no Durable Power of Attorney the person who will have the right to make financial decisions for you if you were incapacitated would be the person named by a judge and not necessarily the people you would like.
With regard to the health care power of attorney if you are incapacitated someone needs to be able to make health care decisions for you. I would imagine that you would want that person to be someone of your choosing and not someone appointed by a judge.
Another benefit of having a health care power of attorney is that it makes it easier for the person you name to make decisions because the document gives guidelines and specifics regarding end of life decisions.