An Estate Plan often contains a Will, a Trust, a Durable Power of Attorney for Financial Management, an Advance Health Care Directive, and an Authorization for Release of Protected Health Information.
Through a Will, you can nominate guardians for your children, a safe home for your pets, and provide each with financial support.
A Trust allows you to transfer your assets to whom you want, when you want, and per your terms. It offers creditor protection, privacy, and a variety of tax strategies. Most important, a Trust allows you to avoid a probate court proceeding. Probate court is expensive and can take years!
A Durable Power of Attorney for Financial Management allows you to authorize an agent to open your mail, pay your bills, accept your paychecks, operate your business, and otherwise financially take care of your responsibilities – all during a time when you are unable to take care of them yourself. This could be during an illness like Alzheimer’s Disease, an injury like a car accident, or it could arise simply through old age. If you are ever not feeling well, this document will be a huge asset to you.
An Advance Health Care Directive is similar in that it lets you select an agent to make medical decisions on your behalf. Medicine is rarely simple, and often there are several treatment options available. If you are conscious, your doctor should discuss those options with you. However, what if you are unconscious? Would you like to choose who makes medical decisions for you? Then you need an Advance Health Care Directive.
You should also have an Authorization for Release of Protected Health Information. Otherwise, your doctor may choose not to share your diagnosis or treatment options with your family, even if you’ve nominated a health care agent! To truly understand the power of this document, go to a doctor’s office where your spouse, parent, or child is a patient, and ask to see their medical records. Does the following sound familiar? “I’m sorry, but due to HIPAA privacy laws, I cannot share that information with you unless you can providde me with an Authorization for Release of Protected Health Information.”
There are many more documents that can be part of an Estate Plan, and all Estate Plan documents are highly customized to best protect each person depending on their own unique circumstances.
If you would like to learn more, seek the advice of a licensed and knowledgeable attorney.