Written by Kiran Dhillon, Esq., MBA
Essential Estate Planning Documents
- Revocable Living Trust
- Durable power of attorney forms
- Advance Health Care Directive
- HIPAA Authorization Release
- Health Care Choices
Most people think of estate planning as taking care of what happens after you pass away. Your estate plan also covers the event of your becoming incapacitated during your lifetime. A good estate plan will make it easy for your loved ones to step in, handle your finances and make legal and health care decisions for you in the event of your incapacity. They will also know your health care wishes and will not have to stress about making important health care decisions.
DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY
Through a durable power of attorney, you can appoint another person to step in and manage your assets and personal care wishes if you become incapacitated. Many estate planning attorneys consider the durable power of attorney form to be one of the most important estate planning instruments. If you become incapacitated without a durable power of attorney, your loved ones will have difficulty managing your bills, accessing your bank accounts, and dealing with your business matters. They might not be able to pay for your medical care, or to care for your loved ones. Without a durable power of attorney, your family would have to go to court to appoint a conservator or guardian to manage your finances and assets.
ADVANCE HEALTH CARE DIRECTIVES
An Advance Health Care Directive allows you to choose, in advance, several important health care items, such as: (1) who will act as your health care agent, if you unable to do so, (2) the choice to prolong life/not to prolong your life, (3) whether you would like pain relief, and (4) organ donation wishes.
HIPAA AUTHORIZATION RELEASE
Under HIPAA (the limitations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), medical providers are not required to share information with anyone except the patient or their guardian. In fact, HIPAA permits medical providers to refuse to share information with family members of patients. This can cause a huge problem in emergency situations. When creating an estate plan, it is essential to issue a HIPAA authorization to allow your loved ones to access your medical records in the event you become incapacitated so that they can step in and act on your behalf.
A will requires two witnesses to watch you sign and attest to your competence. If certain processes are not followed, then it may require your loved ones to go through probate court to provide its validity. An experienced estate planning attorney should be consulted before signing or revoking a Will.
A revocable trust is a financial entity and is created when you (the grantor) signs a trust agreement when preparing your estate plan. You are the current beneficiary of the trust and can also serve as the sole trustee or as one of the co-trustees. The trustees, which act as the legal owner of the trust assets, manage the assets in the trust, which can include, and not limited to: real estate, bank accounts, stocks, investments and any real property and personal property under the terms outlined in the trust document. Having a trust can direct who gets your assets when you pass away and will help ensure that your loved ones do not have to go through probate court and pay probate fees.