What Do I Need for My Estate Plan?


Gregory Pond

Estate planning may seem overwhelming. In reality, most plans have a core structure of documents that provide a road map for your loved ones in regard to your finances, your care and the disposition of your property upon your death.

If you are not sure what you need to begin planning your estate or if you are looking for a checklist of documents that need to be part of your plan, let the team of estate planning attorneys at Certilman Balin help with this checklist of essential documents that form the core of your estate plan:

  • Will.  A Will is the foundation of your estate plan, as this formal document names the person or persons who will manage your estate and provides for the transfer of your property after your death.
  • Power of Attorney.  A Power of Attorney is a document in which you appoint an agent to handle important matters for you during your lifetime should you become incapacitated or disabled.  This document will enable your agent to act on your behalf in financial, business, or legal matters.
  • Health Care Proxy.  A Health Care Proxy (also known as a medical power of attorney) is a document in which you designate a representative who can make health care decisions on your behalf if you are unable to make decisions for yourself.  This document also includes required HIPAA authorizations that enable your health care agent to obtain your medical records and work with your health insurance company.
  • Living Will.  A Living Will is a personal document that provides directions and instructions to your health care agent on how to exercise the decision making authority given to the agent by the health care proxy.  This document will make known your preferences regarding the use of extraordinary measures to prolong life.

For some people, it may also make sense to establish a trust to preserve one’s assets, in addition to putting in place the documents listed above.  While planning and developing a trust can be somewhat complex, it may be necessary to achieve important planning goals.  In future posts, we will discuss in greater detail the type of things one would need to think about before establishing a trust, but for now, know that a trust can be a valuable tool that can be customized to accomplish a wide variety of purposes.

Also, there are several related matters that will need to be discussed as you develop your estate plan, including form of property ownership, lifetime gifts and beneficiary designations for pensions, IRAs, life insurance policies and other assets of that sort.  With these documents and points of reference in mind, it will be less intimidating to start developing a comprehensive estate plan that makes sense for you and your loved ones. If you are not sure where to begin or have questions about any of the documents listed above, please give our team of estate planning attorneys a call, and we will be happy to assist you.