Do You Have These Basic Documents?

Can you name basic documents that will ease the decision making required of your family if something happens to you? Here are four basic documents to think about as part of your overall personal financial plan.

Will. As you know, a will lets you, rather than the state, control how your assets will be split among your heirs. If you have minor children, a will allows you to designate the guardian of your choice. Properly written, a will can increase your heirs’ inheritance by including simple tax-saving strategies.

Power of Attorney. A power of attorney allows you to name another individual as your agent. If you become disabled or seriously ill, a power of attorney allows your agent to pay your bills, deposit your checks, and make decisions on your behalf. You can decide whether your power of attorney becomes effective immediately or only upon the occurrence of a disabling illness or injury.

Health Care Directive. This document (also called living will, advance directive, or other similar name) tells your doctor whether to take extreme measures to keep you alive if you are terminally ill or permanently unconscious. In addition to assisting your doctors, your health care directive will lessen the burden on your family by clearly describing your wishes.

Financial Inventory. A comprehensive inventory includes assets, liabilities, a list of insurance policies, where you keep your important documents, who to contact with regard to those documents, and your choices for funeral arrangements. You can find free guides online to use as a framework. Once you have the inventory completed, store it in a safe place and tell your personal representative where to find it.

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