Other Estate Planning Documents
There are several documents that might be included in (or be added to) your estate plan, in addition to your will or living trust. Good estate planning means taking all your wishes into account and making sure they're properly documented.
Power of attorney
A power of attorney (POA) gives authority to another person to act as your “agent” or “attorney in fact.” As the person granting the authority, you are the “principal.” A POA can grant general powers or be more limited in scope. A “durable” POA goes into effect right away and remains in effect even if you become incapacitated. A “springing” POA only becomes valid on a stated event (i.e., you can no longer make decisions for yourself).
There are 2 basic types of POA's: Financial POA (financial decisions) and Healthcare POA (medical decisions). You might choose the same agent for both or a different agent for each.
Advance healthcare directive
Your advance healthcare directive is generally part of your Healthcare POA (or vice versa). While the Healthcare POA names an agent to make medical decisions for you, the advance healthcare directive lists what types of medical decisions you want or don't want made.
Changes and updates to your estate plan
Your estate plan should be updated from time to time. You might decide to remove a beneficiary, or a successor trustee is no longer available. The terms are different depending on whether it's for a will or trust:
- Trust amendment: If you need to change, add, or remove a provision in your trust, you can draft a trust amendment to include with your estate plan.
- Codicil: Changes to wills are done by codicil. The formal requirements are the same as for wills (signed, 2 witnesses, etc.).
If you don't update your estate plan, your beneficiaries can run into many of the same problems that would occur if you never set one up.
Any other wishes you have should also be documented and kept with your estate plan. This includes funeral arrangements, messages or explanations to your loved ones, and even records and passwords of your digital assets, including social media accounts.
At the basic level, if you want something done by someone else, it's good to leave instructions. That's what an estate plan is: Leaving instructions for when you're gone. These instructions should be as detailed as you need them to be, documented according to all legal formalities, and left somewhere secure where they can be found (and copies given to the right people).
Helix Law Firm can guide you through the estate planning process
We can help you draft an estate plan that provides for your beneficiaries and lays out your wishes in case of the unexpected.