A living will or directive to physicians directly informs your doctors that you do not want extraordinary medical measures taken, especially those that would cause you pain or discomfort, if those measures would only prolong the dying process. This document backs up your health care power of attorney. Anyone can deliver this document to your doctors if your agent under your health care power of attorney is unavailable to make health care decisions for you.
The beginning stages of estate planning does not have to be expensive; a young family can start with a Last Will and Testament and term life insurance, then update and upgrade as their financial situation improves. A well drafted Last Will and Testament will include the following:
Naming an Administrator
This person will be responsible for handling final financial affairs–locating and valuing assets, locating and paying bills, distributing assets, and hiring an attorney and other advisors. It should be someone who is trustworthy, willing and able to take on the responsibility.
Naming a Guardian for Minor Children
Deciding who will raise the children if something happens to both parents is often a difficult decision. But it is very important, because if the parents do not name a guardian, the court will have to appoint someone without knowing their wishes, the children or other family members.
Providing Instructions for Distribution of Assets
Most married couples want their assets to go to the surviving spouse if one of them dies. If both parents die and the children are young, they want their assets to be used to care for their children. Some assets will transfer automatically to the surviving spouse by beneficiary designations and how title is held. However, an estate plan is still needed in the event this spouse becomes disabled or dies, so that the assets can be used to provide for the children.
Naming Someone to Manage the Children’s Inheritance
Unless this in included in the estate plan, the court will appoint someone to oversee the children’s inheritance. This will likely be a friend of the judge and a stranger to the family. It will cost money (paid from the inheritance) and the children will receive their inheritances in equal shares when they reach legal age, usually age 18. Most parents prefer that their children inherit when they are older, and to keep the money in one ‘pot’ so it can be used to provide for the children’s different needs. Establishing a trust for the children’s inheritance lets the parents accomplish these goals and select someone they know and trust to manage it.