Guest Blogger: Breaking Down the Four Non-Negotiable Estate Planning Documents Every Adult Needs
Most adults know, in the abstract sense, that they need some kind of plan to protect their finances and their families if something happens to them. Yet, when they hear the words “estate plan,” images of the über-wealthy are conjured up, and the task of getting the financial house in order is put back on the shelf.
Even if you don’t have Beyoncé money, (who does?!) if you’re over 18, you need some kind of estate plan. Your plan doesn’t have to be complicated, or difficult to create, and can be much less intimidating to tackle when its individual elements are broken down and explained. Below are the four (five, if you have kids,) non-negotiable documents every adult needs, to protect themselves, their assets, and their loved ones.
A (1) Will is the first and most basic document in your estate plan, which is why it is the first thing most people think to create. Every adult needs to have a Will in place. This document details how and to whom you want your money and property distributed, and legally names long-term guardians (the people who will raise, love and care for your kids until they are adults) for your children, if you have them. All wills must be filed and approved by the Probate Court, and become public documents. If you don’t have a Will, the Court will decide what will happen to your money, property and children.
Health Care Proxy and Durable Power of Attorney
A Will is an essential beginning, but it won’t do anything for you while you’re alive, which is why a (2) Health Care Proxy and (3) Durable Power of Attorney are the two other documents we recommend every adult have in place. These documents legally name the people (Agents) you want to make health care, legal and financial decisions for you if you become incapacitated and cannot make decisions for yourself. Make sure that your Health Care Proxy has language that authorizes your agents to obtain full access your medical records.
If you own your home, have more than $25,000 in the bank or investments, life insurance or retirement accounts, or if you have kids under the age of 18, you want to have a (4) living trust in addition to your will. A living trust keeps all of your assets private and makes it as easy as possible for your family to manage things after you’re gone. You can also set up your living trust to minimize state and federal estate taxes, and protect your kids’ inheritance from being lost to divorce, creditors and lawsuits.
Kids Protection Plan
Lastly, if you have children you’ll want to make sure your plan is rock-solid for them, with the addition of a (5) Kids Protection Plan. Like a Will, this document names long-term guardians, but it also legally documents short-term guardians (also known as First Responders, the friends and neighbors close to your home who can stay with your kids until your long-term guardians arrive) for your kids. Make sure you carry a Family Emergency ID Card in your purse or wallet that lists the names and telephone numbers of your First Responders. Whether you have $5 or $50 million, a Kids Protection Plan is critical if you have kids at home under the age of 18.
Emily Spector is an Associate Attorney at The Parents Estate Planning Law Firm, PC in Acton, MA. She is passionate about working with her clients to put together the puzzle pieces of an estate plan, to make the future a little clearer and a little more manageable.
Emily R. Spector
The Parents Estate Planning Law Firm, PC
Trusts | Estates | Families
289 Great Road, Suite 302, Acton, MA 01720
Phone (978) 263-6900 | Fax (978) 548-4960
We Help Parents Protect the People They Love the Most!