ESTATE PLANNING is the process of preparing in advance, for the management and disposition of your estate, in the event that you become incapacitated or pass away. Estate planning is critical for persons of all ages including college students needing to ensure their parents have access to their academic and medical records, early and mid career professionals looking to protect their growing assets or minors, and retirees and seniors seeking to secure their legacy and organize their affairs. Below are a few basic estate planning tools or documents:
A Last Will and Testament allows you to decide what happens to your estate (your money, property, and other assets) after your death. You can define assets, name beneficiaries, assign guardians for your minor children, and appoint an executor to carry out your wishes. If you die without a valid will, your estate is administered according to state laws.
A General Power of Attorney gives powers to a person to act on your behalf. These powers include handling financial transactions, insurance matters, settling claims, and employing professional help to protect your interests if you become unable to do so.
A Living Will or Advance Directive provides written, legal instructions regarding your preferences for medical care if you are unable to make decisions for yourself. Advance directives guide choices for doctors and caregivers if you're terminally ill, seriously injured, in the late stages of dementia or near the end of life.
A Revocable Living Trust is created during your lifetime and determines how your assets will be handled after you die. Assets can include real estate, valuable possessions, bank accounts and investments. Assets you place in the trust are then transferred to your designated beneficiaries upon your death. You can change or cancel the provisions at any time.
Facts of Life (useful booklet for keeping track of life's essential information and documents)