Where Do I Start? Basics to Include in your Estate Plan

Every single person, regardless of how large or modest they may feel their assets are, needs to have a well thought out estate plan that covers three very basic planning instruments that will serve your best interests. Those three planning instruments include a durable power of attorney, a health care proxy, and a last will and testament. Each of these will cover an important aspect of our lives and our family’s lives after we pass away and should be taken very seriously, regardless of what you believe your financial or lifestyle limitations may be.


First, your estate plan will need a durable power of attorney allows you to designate another person to manage your property and/or finances during your life in the event your are unable to do so for yourself. This authority should be vested in a trusted individual you can trust and be sure will act solely in your best interest should the time come that you will need to rely on another for some type of guardianship.


Next you will need to create a health care proxy, which is essentially a form of a power of attorney that deals solely with health care decisions. This durable power of attorney allows you to appoint another person to direct your medical care and make important end of life decisions should you be incapacitated. In New York, this health care proxy should will need a medical directive (also known as an advance directive) providing guidance to your health care agent.


The final essential piece of estate planning is a last will and testament. A last will and testament is the most basic mechanism used to transfer property to our heirs and friends upon our passing away. While there are other ways to pass along assets of our estates, including various forms of trusts, a last will and testament is still needed to send direction to the loved ones we leave behind about how we wish to be buried or otherwise remembered.


It is important to know that these are just the very basics of of an estate plan and the details will vary depending on your unique situation. Assets like bank accounts, a home other real estate, a business, and other valuables may need even more extensive estate planning that satisfies everything from family dynamics and business partners to tax and legal considerations.


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