Ask Heidi: What are the first Steps I should take for my Estate Plan?

Estate Plan

 

Answer:

Think about whom you would like as Personal Representative for your estate. You don’t have to limit your ‘pool’ to family members and friends. Many lawyers, banks and other planning professionals have a person or department that can be named to carry out your wishes.

Create a living will. A living will, or “5 Wishes” as local hospitals call it, is a document which states your wishes should you be incapacitated and in a situation where you need to be placed on life support AND there is no expectation of your survival or recovery. Once completed your primary physician’s office may want a copy, so they are aware of the action you want taken in the face of difficult end-of-life decisions. 

Think about whom you would like as name a Health Care Surrogate or Power of Attorney. This person is tasked with making decisions about your health in scenarios not covered by your living will.  For example:  a patient with advanced Alzheimer’s Disease and two treatment options for a severe medical issue –someone with capacity needs to make the decision. As with your Personal Representative, this could be a non-relative, such as a third-party professional or clergy, if they’re willing to accept the responsibility.  Always talk to your potential designees. 

Check your named beneficiaries for your 401(k) plans and life insurance policies. These non-Probate Assets become Probate Assets if you fail to designate beneficiaries. They don’t HAVE to go to people –often people choose to leave some assets to a charity of their choice –if this is you there are several options to take care of these wishes ahead of time such as Donor Advised Funds and Charitable Trusts that may be able to help your taxes now, too.

Find an Estate Planning Attorney. Hire an Estate Planning Attorney to properly draft these documents and help guide you through this process.

These are just the first steps… go, talk to that Attorney. If you have a plan in place, review your options to ensure everything is accurate.

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