What Exactly is an “Estate Plan”?

What exactly is an estate plan? I hear it often. An “Estate Plan” is simply a plan for what you want done with your things and with you either upon your death or if you become incapacitated.

An Estate Plan has at a minimum the following pieces
-A will
-Durable Power of Attorney
-Medical Power of Attorney
-Declaration of Guardian for self and minor children
-HIPAA Authorization
-Directive to Physicians or Advanced Directive
A will is a statement of what you want done with your property after you die and can be very simple or it can be complex. It may involve some form of trust to be formed upon your death, for instance a trust to care for the money of a minor child or a person with special needs. It can also be a companion document to a revocable trust–a trust established during your lifetime. We talk through many details together to find the pieces that are needed in your will to achieve your goals and needs.
The durable power of attorney or statutory durable power of attorney, is a document where you choose an agent to act on your behalf to make every property decision that you could make for yourself. It is a broad appointment and must be done carefully. The durable power of attorney is a common tool of abuse of the elderly and we counsel all our clients to redo it immediately if there is ever a question regarding their chosen agent. Financial institutions do have the right to refuse a durable power of attorney or delay transactions if they suspect wrongdoing by the agent.
A medical power of attorney is your appointment of a person to manage your medical decision in the event you are unable to make those choices for yourself.
A directive to physicians is your declaration of whether you want life sustaining treatment if you are unable to express your wishes in the moment.
A declaration of guardian is your choice of who you wish to act on your behalf should you need a guardian and your powers of attorney are not sufficient to manage your finances and person.
A declaration of guardian for your children explains to the court who is your choice to care for your children while they are minors should you be unable to do so either because of incapacity or your death.

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