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Step 2: Create a Will and other Estate documents

It has become very popular today to buy complex items with no instruction manuals, such as phones and computers. Even cars now have their instructions on-line (so, if I get a flat, I need an internet connection to figure out where the spare is). In contrast, every financial plan should have written instructions called estate documents. A will is often the first estate document but it is not the only one. At a minimum, you also need a Power of Attorney, Health Care directives, and perhaps a Trust or two. Together, these documents form “the instructions” for taking care of you and your loved ones if you can’t do it yourself. We team with qualified estate/special needs attorneys to guide you through the questions you need to ask, but only you can answer them.

Last Will and Testament - can be simple or complex depending on the sophistication of your assets. Its purpose is to guide the distribution of the wealth you have accumulated over your lifetime, appoint fiduciaries to be responsible for administering the process and caring for your minor dependents, and cleaning up your debts.

Power of Attorney - is a permission slip for someone else to sign your name and make financial decisions on your behalf if you are physically or mentally unable to do so. This is important if you were suddenly incapacitated. If you don’t have a joint checking account, even your spouse can’t access your bank account without a court order.

Health Care Directives or Living Wills- state as clearly as possible the type of medical treatment you do or do not wish to receive if you cannot communicate your desire—including your right to die. A properly crafted directive will also set forth your religious views on these issues and the minimum quality of life you deem acceptable.

A Trust - is a legal entity that allows a trustee to hold or control assets on behalf of a beneficiary. There are many types of trusts, and one of the most important and useful trusts for a Special Needs family is the special needs or supplemental needs trust. A family seeking to provide for a Special Needs member has three major concerns: (1) assets they receive may be squandered because the beneficiary is unable to make responsible choices for themselves; (2) all of the assets will be used to pay the costs of a healthcare facility and the beneficiary will not have any other benefits from the money; (3) inherited assets will financially disqualify the beneficiary from receiving government services. A special needs trust helps address all of these concerns.

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