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Estate planning is a gift to your heirs, simplifying and protecting the lives of those you leave behind. We have extensive experience with estate planning and estate administration, including Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements, Wills, Trusts, Probate, Special Needs Trusts, Powers of Attorney, Living Wills, Tax Planning, Medicaid Planning, Probate Administration and Probate Litigation. To learn more about our estate planning and probate practice and how it can benefit your family, please give us a call.

What are the Basic Estate Planning Documents you Should Have?

For most people, four documents provide sufficient estate planning to protect your assets and family. That being said, each person’s situation is unique and you would want to speak with an estate planning attorney to ensure that your specific needs are being met. The following gives a brief overview of some of the benefits of having these documents in place before something bad happens.

  1. A living will allows you to stipulate your wishes about your end of life decisions, such as whether you want a breathing tube or feeding tube and your preferences about organ donation.
  2. In your health care power of attorney, you can name the person who will handle your health decisions if you are unable to do so. For example, if you develop dementia, that person can accompany you to appointments and relay and receive information (normally our medical information as adults is confidential). If you are in a coma after an accident, you might need someone to step in temporarily to make medical decisions until you are better.
  3. In your general power of attorney (POA), you can name the person who will handle your financial affairs if you are unable to do so. Depending on the rights you grant in the POA, they might pay your bills on your behalf or cash checks that you receive, wrap up your business for you or sell your home.
  4. Your will is the document where you state who will inherit your property. The state of Kentucky has a plan for your property if you do not have a will, a plan which often does not match up with people’s wishes. You will designate who acts as your executor to wrap up your affairs and carry out the terms of your will. You might name a trustee to manage property on behalf of your minor children. You can also state your preference for who will be the guardians who will raise those children.

For each of these documents, it is wise to name a primary person as well as a backup, in the event that the first named person is unable or unwilling to act. One person will not necessarily be suited to handle all four situations. One person might be a great fit to handle the medical decisions but be lousy with money. It is recommended that you carefully select who is the best person to fill each role, tailored to that person’s abilities. Over time, relationships change, people move or pass on. It is not unusual to make changes to the documents, including who you name to handle each of these responsibilities.

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