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What to put in a basic estate plan?

Putting together the correct documents is an essential part of estate planning. Every estate plan will be different, as everybody will bring different needs to the table. Even between couples, the needs are not always the same. Still, there are some basic things that one can call “core” documents.

Core documents generally include a last will and testament or a living trust, an advance medical directive or living will, durable power of attorney, as well as emergency information and a HIPPA release. We’ll take a brief look at these documents, beginning with those dealing with incapacity.

Incapacity documents have the basic purpose of determining who will make health care, financial and personal decisions for you in the event you lose mental capacity. An advance health care directive is a document that allows people not only to specify specific courses of medical care in certain situations, but also to name an individual who will be responsible for making decisions regarding health care. Along with this information, it is important to include HIPPA Release forms so that family is able to handle medical matters in the event of incapacity.

A financial power of attorney allows the attorney in fact to manage your property and handle financial matters on your behalf. When made durable, these documents last through mental incapacity.

Of course, one cannot forget the main portion of the estate planning, one can generally choose a will-based or trust-based approach, or a combination. There are benefits and drawbacks to both wills and trust, and everybody needs to determine on their own, with the help of an experienced attorney and other professionals of course, what they should do.

Whether one goes simple or complex with an estate plan, these documents are all pretty basic. The more complex things get, of course, the more essential it is to work with an attorney.

Source: Fox Business, “Documents that Should be Part of Everyone’s Estate Plans,” Andrea Murad, September 4, 2013.