Essential Components for Estate Planning

by | Dec 6, 2023

Ensure your estate plan covers these crucial documents:

  • Last Will and Testament
  • Enduring Power of Attorney (Financial)
  • Medical Power of Attorney (Healthcare)
  • Advance Healthcare Directive

Parent and Children

Beyond these foundational documents, a comprehensive estate plan should also take into account the acquisition of insurance products, such as long-term care insurance for comprehensive coverage and life insurance.

Last Wills:

Though often perceived as complex or exclusive to the affluent, a Last Will and Testament is a fundamental element of any estate plan.

Crafted to align with your preferences, a Will dictates the distribution of individual assets after death. With this in mind, if you’ve designated a sibling as the beneficiary for a retirement account or insurance policy (assets typically bypassing the Will to a named beneficiary), it’s crucial to avoid bequeathing the same asset to a distant relative in the Will, potentially leading to legal disputes.

Execution of Legal Documents:

General Durable Power of Attorney

A Durable Power of Attorney, also known as a Financial Power of Attorney (FPOA), is vital to designate someone who can act on your behalf if you become unable to do so. Without a Financial Power of Attorney, a court may determine the fate of your assets in case of mental or physical incapacity, potentially diverging from your wishes.

This document empowers your agent to handle real estate transactions, financial dealings, and other legal decisions as if they were you. The document can be revoked by the owner at their discretion, provided they possess mental capacity.

While many opt for their spouse as the power of attorney, there are cases where selecting a financially astute family member, friend, or trusted advisor might be more suitable. Regardless of the initial choice, having alternative powers of attorney in place is prudent in case the primary nominee is unavailable or unable to act.

Healthcare Power of Attorney:

A Healthcare Power of Attorney, sometimes called a Medical Power of Attorney (MPOA) appoints another individual, often a spouse or family member, to make critical medical decisions on your behalf in situations of incapacity.

Choosing a trusted individual with aligned views is crucial, considering the significant responsibility placed on this person. Having a backup agent identified is equally important, providing a contingency plan if the primary appointee is unavailable.

Advance Directive or Living Will:

An Advance Directive, also referred to as a Living Will, outlines a person’s end-of-life health preferences. Though discussing mortality can be challenging, those who communicate their preferences enhance the likelihood of receiving desired medical care.

This document guides physicians on artificial life-support decisions when patients cannot communicate or are in a persistent vegetative state. Declarations made in a properly executed Advance Directive, under Missouri law, govern actions related to artificial nutrition and hydration, as well as decisions related to continuation of death-prolonging procedures.

If any of these documents are missing from your estate plan, it’s crucial to address the gaps. While these four are essential, consulting our planning attorneys can help identify additional documents needed for a comprehensive estate plan. Feel free to contact us at (816-399-2757) or schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys directly.