Documents every parent should have
Will. If you don’t currently have a will, your loved ones may not receive the assets you wish to leave them in the event of your death. A will can save your family time, money and grief as well as give you peace of mind. A will is a legal document that sets forth your property and the care of any minor children. Be sure that you have a self-proving will which is a formally prepared document that is signed in the presence of witnesses.
Living Will or Advanced Directive. These documents provide instructions specifying what actions should be taken for your health in the event that you are no longer able to make decisions due to illness or incapacity. It appoints a person to make such decisions on your behalf.
Health Care Proxy or Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. These documents allow you to appoint and agent to make health care decisions in the event that you are incapable of executing such decisions. These documents are particularly important to persons living in a committed non-marital relationship, if you want your partner rather than immediate family to make health care decisions for you.
Revocable Trust. A revocable trust document manages your assets during your lifetime and distributes the remaining assets after your death. The person who creates a trust is called a ‘grantor’. The person responsible for the management of the trust assets is the ‘trustee’. The trust is revocable since you may modify or terminate the trust during your lifetime. The grantor normally serves as the ‘trustee’ during his or her lifetime. Another person is named as ‘trustee’ upon the grantor’s death. Upon the grantor’s death, the new trustee is responsible to distribute assets to the beneficiaries per the terms of the trust.
The primary advantage of a Trust is that you avoid probate. Your assets will pass directly on to your beneficiaries outside of the probate process. (Probate is the court-supervised process of locating and determining the value of a deceased person’s assets, paying the deceased person’s final bills and taxes, and then distributing what’s left to the deceased person’s heirs.)
Financial Power of Attorney. In the event that you are incapacitated, a financial power of attorney allows you to appoint an agent to manage your financial affairs and property on your behalf.
These are all essential documents that a parent should have. Preparing these documents does not have to involve the expense of an attorney. Many free documents and software programs are available online for download. Just be sure to have any prepared documents notarized.