Coates & Davenport, P.C.

Estate planning involves more than just a simple will

Some people in Richmond may have taken the wise step of creating a will, but then stopped there thinking their estate plan is complete. However, a well-rounded estate plan encompasses more than just a simple will. Let's go over some other documents that a person may want to include in their estate plan.

For example, a person might want to include a health care power of attorney and financial power of attorney in their estate plan. Sometimes these two appointments are included in a single document. However, they each accomplish a different thing.

The health care power of attorney allows an individual to make health care decisions on the person's behalf. It needs to contain Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act language. This is because, due to HIPPA privacy laws, if the health care power of attorney document does not contain HIPPA language, the individual acting as power of attorney will not be able to access the person's medical records.

The financial power of attorney allows an individual to make financial and legal decisions on the person's behalf. It should contain specific language about what the individual acting as power of attorney is allowed to do, such as establishing or altering trusts, opening or closing financial accounts or making real estate transfers.

Then, there is a living will. This is different from a last will and testament. A living will allows a person to specify what type of medical care they want if they are facing an imminent fatal condition. For example, a living will can state whether a person wants to be given a feeding tube, be hooked up to a breathing machine or if they do not want any of these interventions and just want to be kept as comfortable as possible.

These are only some examples of what to consider including in your estate plan, in addition to your will. Of course, when it comes to any estate planning documents, it is important to understand what their purpose is, so that you can ensure your wishes are met. Therefore, it may be a good idea to work with an attorney when creating your estate plan, so that it contains all the necessary documents.

Source: The News-Enterprise, "Basic documents for an estate plan," Cynthia Griffin, Sept. 2, 2017

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