As part of the basics of estate planning you should have a will, a durable power of attorney for financial matters, a health care power of attorney, and a living will. These documents provide the foundation for any estate plan and help you stay in control. If you already have these documents, be sure to review them regularly.

Life events, such as deaths, births, divorces, marriages, or a change in state residency often lead to changes in your goals, so your documents should change as well.

It is important to update estate planning documents when moving from one state to another because state laws vary. It is always a good idea to make sure that your estate planning documents are designed to work well in the state where you live. You should also review your basic documents as changes occur in federal or state estate tax laws.

In this section you will learn about:

  • The benefits and limitations of a will
  • Why you need a durable power of attorney for financial matters
  • Why you need a health care power of attorney and a living will

We’ll also briefly discuss the sensitive issue of funeral and burial instructions.

Will >

Durable power of attorney >

Durable power of attorney for health care >

Living will >

Funeral and burial instructions >

Take note

It is important to pay special attention to words and definitions used in your estate planning documents. Some of the “boilerplate” or standard definitions may not fit your unique personal and family situation. This is especially important for blended or non-traditional families.

Whenever general terms like “spouse,” “heirs,” “descendants,” or “child” are used, be sure that they are clearly defined in a way that is consistent with your wishes and objectives.