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What estate planning documents should every adult have?

Whether a Delaware resident is 18 or 80, making arrangements for death or incapacitation is crucial. It is not only older people or those with families who benefit from estate planning. No one knows what will happen in the future, and news headlines filled with young people who lost their lives or suffered critical injuries can attest to that fact.

Every adult should have five documents at a minimum. The first is, of course, a last will and testament. A Delaware resident might not think that he or she has anything worth passing on, but the disposition of any property occurs after a death. If an individual wants to retain the power to give possessions to a specific person or people, a will is necessary. Anyone with a child also needs a will since a guardian can be appointed in it.

The next document is a durable power of attorney that allows a trusted person to handle financial affairs if an individual is unable to do so because of an illness or injury. Thereafter, a living will provides instructions regarding end-of-life medical treatments, and a health care proxy appoints someone to carry out those wishes and make any other health care decisions not covered by the living will. A HIPAA release is also necessary to ensure that the health care proxy can have access to medical information needed in order to make those important decisions.

These five documents provide adequate coverage with respect to an individual who dies or becomes incapacitated. Additional estate planning may be needed, depending on the circumstances. In order to be sure that all of the bases are covered and to be sure that the documents comply with current law, it would be a good idea to consult an attorney for help.

Source: mytwintiers.com, "Money Smart Week: The Five Documents You Need When Estate", Michelle Ross, April 24, 2017

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