Know the basics: Wills, Living Wills, Powers of Attorney

These are the basic estate planning documents that are recommended for everyone. Your will, is, of course, a means of passing your property and nominating a guardian for your child in case of your death. Ultimately, a judge will look at the entire situation and confirm that the guardian of your kids is truly in your best interest—which protects you if things change after you sign your will. For example, what if you name your parents, but between the writing of your will and the time of your death, their health declines substantially? The judge’s decision rarely overrides a parent’s choice, but it’s there as a safety net.

Living wills and powers of attorney are documents that protect you if you’re incapacitated but you don’t die. Your living will (and sometimes a separate “Healthcare Surrogate Designation” document) is your way of telling your family who decides, and what decisions to make about your health if you can’t decide or communicate for yourself. A power of attorney accomplishes the same idea, but for your “business” – real estate, banking, and more.