Essential Estate Planning Documents
People often ask: What estate planning documents do I really need to protect myself and my family? In Georgia, where I practice, there are three:
An Up-to-date Will
A will passes your property at your death. It can be revoked or changed any time before you die. It only becomes effective to deal with your property after you die, when it is filed for probate (see my post on “What is Probate?”). If done properly with good professional counsel, it can be effective in passing your property to your loved ones in a way that is helpful rather than harmful to them. Without a will, the state will dictate what happens to your property at death (see my post on “The Government Has Made Your Will”). A will can also be used to determine who will raise and provide for children if their parents are no longer living (see my post on “Thy WILL Be Done (Right)”). A will must be signed with very strict formalities, or it is null and void. It is best carried out by an experienced estate planning attorney (see my post on “It’s on the Internet - What Could Possibly go Wrong?”).
A Financial Power of Attorney
A financial power of attorney (POA) delegates power to another person to handle your financial matters while you are living. It expires when you do, unlike a will, which only becomes effective after death. If you became disabled, either temporarily or permanently, a will does you no good. No one has power to handle your financial accounts unless that person is a joint account holder. If you own real estate with another person, including a spouse, the property cannot be sold or refinanced if either owner can’t be at the closing. Everyone, young or old, could become incapacitated at any time. Without a POA, an expensive time-consuming court-supervised conservatorship is necessary to deal with property matters. A POA allows you, not the court, to keep control and keep the lights on and the bills paid.
An Advance Directive for Health Care
This comprehensive form is created by law in Georgia, and allows you to name a Healthcare Agent to make medical decisions for you if you’re not able to do so. You can also make your wishes clear about special concerns such as autopsy, organ donation, final arrangements and life support issues. It is literally a matter of life and death. Don’t neglect this crucial area.
These essential estate planning documents will give you peace of mind in good times, and will protect you and your loved ones in times of crisis. I have helped protect families for nearly 20 years. Call me, John O. "Jack" Moore, at (770) 277-7767 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free consultation. My website is www.johnomoorelaw.com, and contains the blog posts referred to above and other helpful information.