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Essential Estate Planning Documents

Phelps LaClair is a premier estate planning law firm in the Phoenix Metro area. We are well acquainted with folks who want a solid estate plan. But they also feel an urgency to get it done quickly at this time. We understand that. And we agree—there is no time like the present to take care of tomorrow.

With 52% of seniors lacking estate plans, it is even more important now that we are experiencing a global pandemic. People need to determine who will manage their medical and financial decisions should they become sick or incapacitated. And even people who have solid estate plans need to review their situation. A lot of things can change very quickly, and your essential estate planning documents need to be up-to-date.

Considering the amount of change that happens over a few years, are you certain that all of your documents are current? Have you recently acquired valuable assets? Are all of your trustees and powers of attorney still available to carry out their duties? Here is a checklist of key estate planning documents to have in place

1. Will

The most basic estate planning tool is a will. It determines who gets your stuff. In addition, you can also use a will to make provisions for the care of your minor children. If you die intestate (without a will), the state will determine what happens to your assets and to your children. This will involve needless expense and delay going through probate court.

2. Trust

A much better estate planning tool is a living trust. Like a will, a trust declares who your beneficiaries are, and what they will receive of your estate. With a trust, you can stipulate how your children are to be taken care of and name a guardian for them. A trust is funded by your assets, and you can be in control of them during your life. After you are gone, the terms of the trust are implemented by the person you name as the successor trustee. Probate is avoided, saving your heirs time and money.

3. Living Will

A living will spells out your end-of-life medical decisions. If at any point you are unable to communicate your wishes—because you are in a coma or because a doctor has diagnosed you as incapable of making decisions—a living will allows your family and physicians to know your desires. They can rest assured that your personal beliefs and choices are being respected.

Also known as an advance directive, a Living Will spells out what medical treatment you are willing to receive, and what treatment you don’t wish to receive. Would you want to be kept alive artificially? If you are in a long-term incapacitation such as a coma or a vegetative state, should your life go on indefinitely? A living will frees your loved ones from the unbearable burden of wondering if they are doing “the right thing” regarding your care.

4. Medical Power Of Attorney

With a living will, you need to empower someone that you trust to enforce your wishes and communicate with your doctors if you are not able to communicate on your own. This person, also known as a healthcare proxy, will be responsible for decisions regarding your hospital, doctors, and the care you receive.

The medical power of attorney must be compliant with the HIPPA Privacy Rule which allows caregivers to discuss a patient’s condition in detail. The healthcare proxy must be willing to act on your behalf, and should live nearby in case of emergency. Many people will choose a close friend over a relative because of the emotional elements involved during a time of grieving.

5. Financial Power of Attorney

Like a healthcare proxy with a medical power of attorney, you need to select a financial agent to act in your best interest. Creating a financial power of attorney allows you to choose a trusted person to take care of your business.

This person will have access to all of your financial accounts, will pay your bills and deposit your income, and will make investment decisions for you. They will also be responsible for filing your taxes. The actions and decisions taken by this agent must be for your benefit, and will be accountable to a court.

You Need an Estate Plan

Preparation is all about planning. These three essential estate planning documents are the best preparation you can have in light of Covid-19. All of our Phelps LaClair clients have a living will, and medical and financial powers of attorney as part of their estate plan. They also have access to a free consultation to review their estate plan every three years.

If you do not have an estate plan or a living will, we offer a free no-obligation consultation to discuss your needs and goals. Give us a call to schedule an appointment, and we’ll make sure you are as prepared as you can be for whatever lies ahead.



Images used under creative commons license (Commerical Use) 04/27/2023  Photo by Romain Dancre on Unsplash 

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