7 Documents You Need to Fill Out Before You Die

Photo by Annie Spratt

End-of-life documents you need!

End-of-life planning is the process of creating documents to manage your assets upon death, disability or incapacity. It’s not a pleasant task, but it’s critical that you implement it before you need it.

Let’s have the look at the seven most important legal documents that you need in order to have a well organized end of life plan.

1. Last Will & Testament

A last will is a legal document that ensures that your assets are passed on to people you have chosen. Since a will does not begin to take effect until you die, it won’t provide any benefits during your lifetime. But it’s still very useful to have one. Usually, you can change your will at any time as long as you’re of sound mind. 

If you want to make changes on your will at a later stage, you can use a codicil. Alternatively, you can revoke (cancel) your will by writing a new one. The size and value of your estate are important to consider when creating documents for your estate plan. For example, larger estates ($5.49 million or more in 2017), usually require special federal estate tax planning.

2. Trust

A trust is a legal instrument that you can use to manage your assets. Two types of trusts are the inter vivos trusts and the testamentary trusts. An inter vivos trust is an agreement that exists during your lifetime. On the contrary, a testamentary trust is included in your last will and activate upon your death. 

A trust names a trustee who has the responsibility of managing the assets in the trust. It also determines when and how much of the trust assets to distribute (subject to the terms that you write into the document).

If you leave assets to minors, incapacitated individuals, or if you just want someone else to manage their finances for them, it is a good idea to create a trust. For instance, you may want to name a trustee while your child is under a certain age; once they reach an age of 25 or 30, they can either act as their own trustee or have all of their assets distributed to them outright.

3. Power of Attorney

A Power of Attorney grants one person the power to make legal and financial decisions on behalf of another. Moreover, a Durable Power of Attorney is a document that lasts until your death or until you revoke it.

Most such documents usually go into effect immediately. Unless, that is, it’s a Springing Power of Attorney. This only goes into effect if the decision-maker is unable to act on his or her own behalf. It is critical that you completely trust this decision-making person, since they can legally act on your behalf!

4. Healthcare Power of Attorney

These are not You can grant a trusted individual the authority to make decisions about your medical treatment should you be unable to do so on your own. 

A Healthcare Power of Attorney does not give power over financial matters, only medical decisions. Should doctors keep feeding you through tubes? And for how long? These are decisions someone could make for you if you name them in your Healthcare Power of Attorney.

If you want someone with both financial and legal, but also medical powers, you need two documents: both a Power of Attorney and a Healthcare Power of Attorney. Only then can you cover all your bases.

5. Living Will

A Healthcare Power of Attorney may not always be enough, depending on the situation. That’s why many people use a Living Will, also known as a Directive to Physicians.

This document sets out your predetermined wishes regarding end-of-life care should you become permanently unconscious or incapacitated.

A Living Will takes the decision to withhold treatment out of the hands of your medical providers and family. As a result, they are not burdened by it and you can be sure that your wishes are respected.

6. HIPAA Release

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) fills patients’ records with important information. However, there is one particular provision of HIPAA that can have severe unintended consequences. 

That is about the legal authority to share medical records. Without it your family may not have access to information regarding your medical situation if you become incapacitated. A HIPAA release allows you to specify who will be able to obtain such information in case you cannot provide it for yourself. This way you make sure your loved ones are up to speed with any developments regarding your health.

7. Letter of Intent

A Letter of Intent is a letter to the ones you love expressing your desires and special requests. This may include  information regarding burial or cremation, or a specific bequest of collectibles or personal items. A Letter of Intent doesn’t have legal authority. However, it can help to clear up confusion regarding your personal preferences.

Final Thoughts

All the above make it clear that there is a number of documents needed for a comprehensive end-of-life plan. And that’s why we’ve created Myend.

Myend offers several end-of-life planning tools to help you get started. With our easy to use platform you can create, store and update all your necessary end-of-life documents. Sign up today for free if you think it’s time to take action!

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Myend is not a law firm, it does not engage in the practice of law, and it does not render any official legal advice. Therefore, you are hereby advised to seek your own legal counsel regarding any legal issues. Myend’s articles are meant to be taken as suggestions and therefore Myend carries no responsibility for the user’s actions.