Last Will & Testament, is that all I need?
It's a good question. That is something people often ask when they consider making an estate plan. "Do I need anything else, or is a Last Will & Testament enough?" “Am I covered?” The answer is simpler than you might think. Comprehensive estate planning generally requires at least a couple other documents; but it depends on the goals you are trying to accomplish.
Are you planning for how your belongings and hard-earned assets will be left upon your death? Then perhaps yes. A Last Will & Testament can accomplish that and more. There are many provisions that go into a well-written Will that can express your wishes, leave clear instructions, provide guidance for how your assets are to be managed after your death, and grant someone the authority necessary to handle things in an orderly and cost-effective way. So if that’s the only project, then yes, a Will might be all you need. Whether or not you have life insurance, retirement accounts, or anything else with beneficiary designations, your Will can be thought out and written to be consistent with your wishes. That is a worthwhile and meaningful thing to prepare for your family and loved ones.
Comprehensive estate planning, however, addresses other scenarios as well. For instance, who takes care of business and makes decisions for you during a situation where you are still alive but incapacitated? A Last Will & Testament is not effective until after the person’s death. So for example, in a case where you might be hospitalized and can’t communicate for yourself, a Medical Power of Attorney can be useful. A Medical Power of Attorney gives you the opportunity (before an accident occurs) to appoint an agent with authority to speak with doctors and communicate healthcare decisions on your behalf. You hope that is never necessary. But having a written document to make that process easier can be invaluable should the need arise. Otherwise, family members might be put in a tough spot when you get hurt. There are also additional documents, such as a financial power of attorney or other medical directives, that can be considered for different contingencies.
Many of our clients are only looking for a Last Will & Testament. That might be the only thing they want to prepare for the time being. We are here to help. We consider it a privilege to assist and appreciate the business. If you would also like to discuss some of the other considerations that are common to estate planning, we can help with that too. We generally recommend three or four simple documents for most people, to cover a wider range of issues. But depending on your current planning objectives, a Last Will & Testament might be all you need.
(Most commonly recommended estate planning documents include a Last Will & Testament, Medical Power of Attorney, Durable Power of Attorney, and Directive to Physicians)