What Are The Four Key Documents Of Your Estate Plan?

1. The Last Will and Testament

A Will is a document signed by an individual (the "Testator") in accordance with certain formalities that directs the disposition of his property (personal possessions, "intangible" assets, such as cash, stock and bonds, as well as real estate) at death.

A Will allows the Testator to choose a guardian for his or her minor children if the other parent is not living. Without a Will, the probate court will determine who will serve as guardian.

2. The Durable Power of Attorney

A Durable Power of Attorney is a document in which the principal (the person giving the power) authorizes an agent (called an "attorney-in-fact") to perform certain acts relating to the principal's finances. The attorney-in-fact does not have to be an attorney.

3. The Health Care Power of Attorney

A Health Care Power of Attorney is a written document signed by the principal, which authorizes an attorney-in-fact to make all health care decisions for the principal when the attending physician determines that the principal is incapacitated so as to be unable to make health care decisions for himself or herself.

4. The Living Will

Living Wills, called "Declarations," are used by individuals, called "declarants," who desire to express their wishes regarding their health care if they should be terminally ill or in a permanently unconscious state.