You’ve heard about estate planning, but the thought of planning for your death and beyond is uncomfortable. By having your attorney prepare a few basic documents, you can ensure your wishes are met and family members are not faced with difficult decisions.
Estate planning is not one size fits all. Some people need very complex estate planning, which may involve trusts, deeds, and other documents. Everyone, however, at a minimum, needs three important documents: a will, power of attorney, and health care directive. These documents provide direction to surviving heirs, family members, and medical personnel.
Last Will and Testament
A last will and testament provides for the disposition of assets and personal effects upon death. Generally, a last will and testament will name a personal representative, who is granted the authority to act on behalf of your estate in ensuring debts are satisfied and that your wishes are honored. If you have minor children, a last will and testament is especially important. Parents can designate whom they wish to care for their child, and whom they wish to manage the minor child’s assets.
Durable Power of Attorney
A general durable power of attorney will appoint another individual to assist you with day-to-day business and financial affairs and allows another individual to act on your behalf. This differs from the last will and testament as a durable power of attorney is only valid while you are living. By working with your attorney, you can ensure your durable power of attorney grants another individual the authority to manage your money, manage your real property, and act on your behalf with government entities, such as the Internal Revenue Service.
Health Care Directive
Most simple estate plans include a health care directive. A basic health care directive gives direction as to your wishes regarding medical care should you be unable to communicate them. Oftentimes, health care directives provide direction concerning your wishes post-death such as burial, cremation, etc.
You might be thinking, “do I need an estate plan?” The answer is a resounding yes! Everyone can benefit from an estate plan. Although North Dakota law provides for circumstances where a person dies without a will, the best way to remove the “guess-factor” for your surviving heirs is to leave behind a solid estate plan. This can significantly reduce the chance that your estate gets caught up in unwanted litigation.
Beyond the legal needs for estate planning, it is morally responsible to provide guidance and direction to your loved ones upon your death. There are many tasks and considerations that must take place upon one’s death and providing a solid estate plan can be very beneficial to those who survive you.
You’ve worked hard to earn and maintain your assets. Invest in yourself and plan for your future. The attorneys at Ohnstad Twichell, P.C. are always happy to assist you in understanding your estate planning needs. Please contact us to schedule an appointment.