Estate planning attorneys help you plan for distribution and/or control of your assets, help you plan for issues related to your medical care, assist you with issues related to raising your children if you pass away before they are legal adults, and more. If you are interested in learning how to best protect yourself, your family, and your assets you need to contact and possibly hire an estate planning attorney.
The size, nature and character of your estate may change how an estate planning attorney advises you, but the average person over the age of 18 typically needs the following five legal documents: Last Will and Testament, Medical Power of Attorney, HIPAA Release, Statutory Durable Power of Attorney and Advanced Directive (also known as a Living Will). The purpose of each document is as follows:
- Last Will and Testament: This is probably the most well-known estate planning document and it is vitally important for a number of reasons. First, if you don’t have one when you die, then your loved ones will likely need to deal with the intestacy laws and procedures, determination of heirs, etc. These processes can take longer and be more expensive than if they simply have to probate your will. Also, executing a Will is your chance to say exactly how you want your estate to be distributed and to whom. Finally, if you have minor children a will can provide you with the opportunity to designate who will serve as a Guardian and/or Trustees for those minor children.
- Medical Power of Attorney: This document allows you to designate, in advance, who you want to make medical decisions in the event that you become incapacitated. You can also designate alternates so that you are protected in the event that your preferred agent is unable or unwilling to serve.
- HIPAA Release:This is a companion document to the Medical Power of Attorney. Due to the strict HIPAA laws, it is important that the person(s) you name as your Medical Power of Attorney have full access to all medical records, charts, x-rays, etc.
- Statutory Durable Power of Attorney: This document allows you to designate, in advance, who you want to make decisions regarding your possessions and/or finances in the event you become incapacitated. For example, the person you designate may be able to sign closing documents, authorize stock trades, and more.
- Advanced Directive (also known as a Living Will): This document allows you to express your wishes regarding your medical care in the event that it is determined that you are in either a terminal or an irreversible condition. This document will supersede any Medical Power of Attorney that you have in place.
In conclusion and in answering the question “Why should I hire an estate planning attorney?” the answer is simple: If you have all five of the above-described legal documents you will have gone a long way towards ensuring that your wishes concerning your care and your estate have been adequately addressed and that your family has been and will continue to be taken care of in the event that you are not able to actively care for them.