As any individual or family looks to the future, there is a myriad of difficult decisions to make and clearly too many planning items to address at once. But before facing these sometimes overwhelming tasks and considerations, there are four fundamental life and estate planning documents that everyone needs to have. The preparation of (1) a will, (2) powers of attorney over health care decisions and financial decisions and (3) a health care directive (often referred to as a “living will”) is absolutely essential for everyone, no matter their income or wealth status. Other planning considerations are undoubtedly important, but these four core documents make up the basis of anyone’s life and estate plan.
Effective and timely life and estate planning provides benefits for the individuals undertaking the planning as well as their family, friends and other loved ones. Addressing critical life events and decisions before they occur accomplishes three main things: (1) discussion and consideration of these topics foster thoughtful and deliberate decisions, (2) proper counsel and preparation will lead to the most desirable results from the standpoint of personal preferences, convenience, and tax reduction, and (3) an individual can rest assured that their wishes will be carried out in the event they are unable to make decisions for themselves.
The preparation of these four documents is not an overly burdensome or expensive process. A skilled attorney can prepare these documents in a relatively short timeframe and should offer a quite reasonable fee, especially if your situation and desires are not overly complicated. While each life and estate planning situation is entirely unique and requires personal consideration and attention, a discussion of the principles and details of these core documents will help you get a start on the process.