There are three basic documents that every adult should have in place to protect themselves and their loved ones:
1. A Healthcare Power of Attorney (including a Living Will or Advance Directive regarding your end-of-life wishes)
2. A Financial Power of Attorney
3. A Last Will & Testament
When properly created, shared, and stored, these documents will be there to remind others of your answers to the following important questions if/when you can no longer speak for yourself.
1. Healthcare Power of Attorney & Living Will
Who do you trust to make medical decisions for you if you can’t make them yourself?
If you require full-time care, would you want help to be provided to you to your own home or at a certain facility (or facility type)?
Should other family members, friends, or trusted professionals be able to speak with your doctors and help to support your decision maker(s)?
Would you want your decision maker(s) to be able to remove life support?
What other wishes or requests should your decision maker(s) be aware of, if any?
2. Financial Power of Attorney
Who do you trust to make good business, legal, and financial decisions for you?
When should these trusted people be able to take action to protect your interests?
Should they be able to give your money to help any other person or charity (and if so, within what limits)? (For example, if you have sufficient funds to pay for your reasonably anticipated needs, should they be able to continue tithing 10% of your income to your church and treat all of your children or grandchildren equally with respect to help with college tuition and wedding gifts?)
3. Last Will & Testament
Who should inherit your assets after you pass away?
Who should be responsible for gathering your assets together and distributing them according to terms you select after you pass away?
Who should be allowed to take care of your minor child(ren)? (Similarly, do you anticipate that anyone who would be an unsafe caregiver would be entitled to or petition for custody or visitation? If so, to what extent should your money be used after your death to try to protect your child(ren)?)
What other issues in your situation may necessitate creating documents to complement your will, such as a revocable living trust (to simplify probate, distribute retirement benefits in trust, protect your children’s inheritance in the event of divorce, and/or integrate special needs planning) or a life insurance trust (to minimize taxes)?