Basic Estate Planning
People often put off their "estate planning" because they think it will be complicated and/or expensive. The truth is, it doesn't have to be.
More often than not, a simple Will is all a person needs. A simple Will can accomplish most, if not all, of what a complex Will or Trust accomplishes - with far less cost, time, and effort. A simple Will designates someone to pay your bills and distribute your property after your death. It can also name a guardian for your children and put someone in charge of managing your children's financial affairs until they are capable of doing so themselves.
If you have a relatively modest estate that will not be subject to state or federal estate taxes (currently, an estate worth less than $2 million), and you don't need to create a Trust (for example, to support a spouse or disabled child), a simple Will is probably all you need.
If you have a larger estate that will be subject to estate taxes, need to set up a trust to support a spouse, or have a disabled child whose special needs you want to continue to support after your death, a simple Will will not suffice. Still, it need not be daunting or complicated. Your instructions for these types of arrangements can be worded plainly and clearly, so that the person designated to carry out your instructions understands his or her responsibilities.
Power of Attorney
Having a Power of Attorney and a Health Care Directive are just as important as having a Will. A Power of Attorney gives a trusted person the authority to make financial and health care decisions on your behalf if or when you are incapable of making those decisions. A Power of Attorney is designed to eliminate the costly and emotional legal process of appointing a guardian to manage your personal and financial affairs.
Health Care Directive
A Health Care Directive (also called a "Living Will") is a document giving instructions ('directives') to your health care providers regarding the kind of treatment you do or do not want to receive if you are in a terminal or permanently unconscious condition. For example, you may want pain medication, but you may not want artificial nutrition (a 'feeding tube') or artificial hydration (an 'IV'). Providing clear instructions to your health care providers relieves others from having to determine what kind of treatment you want or don't want. It also relieves your health care provider from having to sort out which family members' wishes are to be heeded.