5 Documents You Should Include In Your Estate Plan And Why

Jan 23, 2024

Many people become overwhelmed at the prospect of beginning the estate planning process, simply because they may not know everything about it or what all it entails. Unfortunately, some people don’t even consider beginning the process because they think they aren’t wealthy enough to warrant having one.

We’re here to set the record straight – everyone who has money and/or property needs an estate plan!

An estate plan is like your personal toolkit of legal tools that spell out exactly how you want your money and belongings handled now and down the road. It’s basically your way of getting everything in order and making sure your legacy is carried out just the way you want it! But it can also serve other purposes, like allowing parents of minor children to name the person who should be their guardian if a tragedy were to leave them deceased or incapacitated, or allowing an individual to express their preferences for healthcare in the event that they become unable to express them.

Many people might assume that a will is all you need in your estate plan. While having a will is important, it won’t be as effective as having a comprehensive estate plan. There are many other important documents that should be part of your estate plan, and we’ll be breaking them down in this blog.

1. A Will

What It Is:

A will is like your personal instruction manual for what happens to your stuff after you’re no longer around. You get to say who gets what – your prized comic book collection, the vintage record player, or even a cherished family heirloom that has been passed on for generations. It’s not just about things, though; you can also decide who takes care of your pet iguana, or who’s in charge of making sure your cousin gets the money you’ve been saving up.

Why You Need It:

Without a will, everything is left up in the air, and the government gets to decide what happens to your stuff and your money, which can get messy. It also leaves the door open for your loved ones to bicker and argue over who they think should get what or who they swear they heard you promise that antique to.

You likely don’t want to put your family in this position, so it’s best if you take the time to specify your wishes now. Think of a will as your way of being the boss even when you’re not here, making sure everything goes to the right people and places.

2. Living Will 

What It Is:

This estate planning document is also known as an advance directive, and it clearly states your wishes for what medical decisions should be made on your behalf if you are unable to make them for yourself. Should you become incapacitated, your doctors and your family members will all know without a doubt what you would have wanted them to do.

Why You Need It:

Living wills allows you to remain in control of your dignity and bodily autonomy, even in the face of a tragedy. They also protect your family from the immense stress of having to guess at what you would have wanted, and agonize over whether or not they made the right decision. These types of things can be traumatizing for some individuals, and leave them with lasting emotional scars.

3. Financial Power Of Attorney

What It Is:

With a financial power of attorney, you get to pick a person – maybe a family member or a close friend – and put them in charge of your money and other financial decisions. This could be because you’re traveling, dealing with a health issue, or just need a hand for some reason. They can pay bills, manage your bank accounts, and handle other money stuff on your behalf.

Why You Need It:

If you become unable to handle your financial affairs for whatever reason, it wouldn’t be much different than if you simply stopped paying your bills. A lot of bad things could happen, like getting your vehicle repossessed, falling behind on your mortgage, or more. Financial power of attorney ensures someone you trust is there to keep these things from happening.

4. Healthcare Power Of Attorney

What It Is:

Similarly, a healthcare power of attorney functions in the same way, only pertaining to your medical decisions. It can work in conjunction with your living will.

Why You Need It:

You won’t be able to predict every future scenario, especially when it comes to your health. Having this tool in place covers all of your bases by allowing a trusted family member or friend to make decisions on your behalf and hopefully, align decisions closely with your values and wishes (rather than a medical team that doesn’t know anything about you or your history).

5. Simple Family Trust

What It Is:

A trust is a financial entity to which you transfer assets – you can think of it like a special container for your belongings, such as your home, savings, and maybe that comic book collection you’re proud of. More specifically, a simple family trust is designed to ensure that your belongings stay in your family. Many people with minor children choose to set up these kinds of trusts so that their kids will be taken care of if anything should happen to them.

Why You Need It:

Trusts bypass the complicated Ohio probate process, which can drag on for months and deplete the wealth of the estate for as long as it lasts. Without the need for court intervention, your financial and personal information can remain private and your loved ones can get their inheritance quickly and easily.

Protect What Matters Most Today With The Help Of Dailey Law Offices

Far too many people put off making an estate plan, thinking they’ll do it later when they have more time, or because the whole process seems a bit overwhelming. But the reality is that none of us are guaranteed tomorrow, and not having a plan in place can leave your family in a difficult position if something happens to you.

Our lead estate planning attorney, Stephanie Dailey, is committed to helping families take proactive steps to planning for the future. Call today to schedule your free consultation and learn more!