Perhaps the most important and difficult part of estate planning is deciding who is best suited to make financial and medical decisions for you if you are unable to make them yourself. Without executing these important documents, your loved ones may be required to petition Supreme Court to become your guardian in an Article 81 Guardianship Proceeding. This is a difficult and time-consuming process that no one wants to endure.
The three documents every individual should have are:
Durable Power of Attorney
Legal document wherein you appoint a trusted family member or friend to act on your behalf if you are unable to act for yourself. The document should allow this individual the authority to handle all of your financial matters, including, but not limited to real estate, banking, insurance, litigation, government benefits and the power to gift assets.
You may appoint co-agents to act on your behalf or can appoint a successor to act when the primary cannot.
Health Care Proxy
A legal document that provides an individual the authority to make medical decisions on your behalf. This person should know your wishes about medical treatment and end-of-life decisions that may need to be made.
A document that expresses your desires for end-of-life care. Without a Living Will, your family may make decisions contrary to your beliefs. The absence of a Living Will can also create issues between family members who have different beliefs.