We never know when tragedy will strike, an accident occurs, or a diagnosis of a serious illness is given. Having an estate plan, including these specific documents, is part of being a responsible adult and preparing for whatever the future may bring.
If having a checklist makes you more likely to get things done, then this article from WTHR 13 “The 5 legal documents every adult should have,” should get you started.
1. General Durable Power of Attorney. This document states who you want to make decisions, if you’re unable to do so for yourself. Without it, your family may have to petition the courts to become your legal guardian, which can be time consuming and expensive. A power of attorney allows the person whom you select, to pay your mortgage or rent and your bills.
2. Health Care Power of Attorney. This document plans for the situation, if you are unable to make your own health care decisions. You name someone you trust, like family members or friends, to do this on your behalf.
3. Will. This says that when you pass away, here's what I want to happen. A will states who will get your assets after your death. If you don’t have a valid will in place, the state laws of intestacy will govern what will happen to your estate—which may not be what you want.
4. Living Will. This is the document in which you state your instructions for end-of-life care, such as life support. This document is used to make certain that your family and physicians know what you want your end-of-life care to be. A living will is much different than a will.
5. Revocable Living Trust. This document can be important, if you're a parent with young children and would like your assets passed down properly to your children, if you die. Typically, if children are under 18 or 21, they're legally minors and can't receive assets. A trust can help coordinate their receiving your property.
Be mindful that if you use an online document preparation service, you may be leaving your family with an invalid document. An estate planning attorney will work with you to create a comprehensive plan that addresses all and any possible scenarios to protect yourself and your family.
Reference: WTHR 13 (April 17, 2019) “The 5 legal documents every adult should have”