The following legal documents can help you protect the assets you've earned through your lifetime, and keep you in control of how they are used for your care:
- A Durable Power of Attorney gives the person you choose the power to manage your financial estate and make your health care decisions if health care authority is included in the document or included by state statute. A Durable Power of Attorney is effective when signed, unless the document says otherwise. A Power of Attorney must satisfy state requirements for "durability" to be used when you are no longer able act on your own. Each state has its own laws enumerating the specific powers a grantee can hold and can be found online, typically on a state government website, or through a legal professional
- In a Living Trust, your assets are put into a trust that is administered for your benefit during your lifetime, and then transferred to your beneficiaries when you die. This type of trust can avoid or minimize the need for probate. You can maintain control of the trust through your lifetime. The trust should name a successor trustee to control the assets if you become incapacitated and after your death. Trusts are strongly recommended for large or complex estates or in states that have an especially complex probate process.
- Families with large estates should consult an expert for advice about income, estate and inheritance tax planning.
Ensure that your family and other important people in your life understand what your wishes are, and what is included in these documents. Discuss your wishes with the person who will make your health care decisions, and be sure that they are comfortable with their role, and that they can be available to carry out your wishes.