Making estate plans in advance can provide great peace of mind for you and your family.  It is helpful to provide clear instructions to family and friends as to how you would like to handle health care and financial decisions in the event that a health issue prevents you from making these decisions on your own.

To plan for the future, three basic documents are suggested – a will, a durable power of attorney for healthcare/living will and a durable power of attorney for finances.


Your will is a written document, signed by you and typically by two witnesses. In some states, your signature is witnessed by a notary. If your will is accepted by the probate court, it will be used to determine the distribution of your property. Without a will, the court often ignores your desires and follows state law to distribute your assets and appoint guardians for minor children.

With a will, you are able to choose who will inherit your property and who will administer your estate as executor or personal representative. If you have minor children, you can choose a guardian to care for your minor children. Your will also may include a trust and you can name a trustee.

A will is an essential part of transferring your property at the right time to the right people at the lowest cost. Without a will, your family may encounter increased costs, delays and unnecessary conflicts. You can provide a great legacy for your family with a sound estate plan.

Healthcare Directives

There are two types of healthcare directives to consider – a durable power of attorney for healthcare and a living will. In some states, they are combined into one document called an advance directive.

A durable power of attorney for healthcare allows you to select a person who can help make healthcare decisions if you are incapacitated. You may have a serious medical condition and the doctor will need healthcare advice. Your designated holder of a durable power of attorney for healthcare can help you receive high-quality care.

A living will is a second document that helps medical personnel understand your wishes for end-of-life care. If you become seriously ill, there are a number of decisions regarding care, nutrition, hydration, and resuscitation that may need to be made. A living will permits you to recommend your preferred end-of-life care options.

Durable Power of Attorney for Finances

When you sign your will, you usually are able to manage your finances and personal affairs. However, that may not always be the case. There may come a time when you are in poor health and not able to manage your finances. During these times, you will want a plan to ensure your property is being cared for and your bills are being paid. A durable power of attorney for finances is a solution to protect your property and yourself.

A durable power of attorney allows you to appoint someone to make financial decisions if you are disabled or incapacitated. It enables you to select someone you trust and who shares your values.

If you do not have a durable power of attorney for finances, the court may decide to appoint a conservator. A court-appointed conservator may not understand you or your goals and may not share your values. The court may require the conservator to submit expensive reports and audits, which would be paid for out of your assets.