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Three must-haves in estate planning

Estate planning is an important process for individuals to protect, conserve and distribute the assets in their estate. However, even small estates need to implement simple planning tools. For example, a recent article reviews three basic documents that are important for any size estate. Miami-area residents should make sure they wisely plan for the future by drawing up the following:

  1. A power of attorney: This document gives someone else permission to represent you in financial and legal situations. A power of attorney gives a designated person the right to speak for you in other matters as well, including the disposition of personal property. There are three types of powers of attorney -- general, springing and durable -- that your attorney can describe for you. This is crucial to have so that you can be protected in case your decision-making abilities falter due to illness, accident or aging.
  2. Health care proxy: This document gives you the power to appoint someone to make decisions regarding your health care and medical treatment if circumstances leave you unable to decide for yourself. The proxy also allows for alternates if the appointee cannot perform those duties. The proxy also allows for the release of medical records to the appointee. A health care proxy is often seen as a requirement for older adults, it also is crucial for young adults, even those who have just entered college. At age 18, parents no longer can make medical decisions or receive their child's records. It is wise for the young adults to have a proxy, name a parent or other family member as the proxy.
  3. Living will: This document states your wishes as to what medical treatments you would like to have to try to save your life in case of emergency, such as a feeding tube. You also can specify certain circumstances under which you do not want to be kept alive, such as if you suffer from irreversible brain damage.

We often think of estate planning as preparation for death. However, in the case of these three documents, they can also be used as essential tools when planning for untimely events during life.

Source: New Jersey Newsroom, "Health care proxy, living will, and power of attorney: Complete them now," Mary Ellen Hancock, Sept. 25, 2012

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