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For a basic estate plan, for most people, the documents are going to include a will, possibly a trust. They are going to include a general power of attorney, meaning a power of attorney for financial matters; a living will; a health care power; and beneficiary designations. Quickly what are each of those documents.
The will is the document that gives away your property at the time of your death. For some people who want to avoid probate, it’s the trust that does that. The general power of attorney is a document that allows you to designate someone else, known as an agent, to act on your behalf in financial matters if you can’t do so yourself. A living will is involved in a situation if you are in what the law calls an end-state condition. That means you’re unconscious. You’re in the process of dying and there’s no hope for your recovery. In that situation, a living will is a set of instructions what medical treatment to give you or not give you.
Many times people are unconscious and can’t make medical decisions, but they’re not in the process of dying, and a living will has nothing to do with that situation. That’s where the healthcare power comes in, in which you give someone else the ability to make medical decisions for you if you can’t do them for yourself. And finally the beneficiary designation is if you have life insurance, if you have a retirement account or something like that, where you fill out a form, and it’s important that it be done properly, where you give away the life insurance or the retirement benefits at the time of your death.
Philadelphia, PA estates & probate lawyer Marc H. Jaffe talks about the steps he follows to create a basic estate plan for his clients.