No one is eager to talk about their own mortality. Discussions with close family members or friends about end-of-life decisions can be difficult.
However, individuals in Pennsylvania who take steps to protect their assets and outline particular wishes while they are still healthy can go a long way. A basic estate plan can achieve peace of mind and also help prevent future conflict among loved ones.
Three essential estate planning steps
Although every person’s circumstance is different, there are three critical actions that everyone should consider in order to ensure their wishes are carried out in the event they pass away or become incapacitated:
1. Healthcare Power of Attorney: Detailing important health care wishes
A person may be in great health, but life is unpredictable. An accident or sudden illness can render people incapable of making decisions about their health care.
Fortunately, people can designate a trusted person, known as their Agent, to act as their health care proxy or medical power of attorney who can make the proper decisions on their behalf.
2. Will preparation: Naming an executor
When a person passes away, his or her estate goes through probate. An individual, known as an executor or executrix, is the person tasked with managing a decedent’s estate.
Everyone should consider naming a specific person as an executor – one who they trust to handle the administration tasks involved with their estate. These include collecting all assets and debts, paying the debts and taxes, and releasing individual bequests and general bequests to beneficiaries.
3. Power of Attorney: Protecting financial assets
If a person should become incapacitated, a financial power of attorney can protect and manage that person’s finances. Similar to a medical power of attorney, individuals can designate a person, known as their Agent, to oversee their finances, if necessary.
Taking these three actions can help ensure that an individual’s wishes relating to health and finances are carried out appropriately and by the designated individual.
Reviewing and updating as needed
Once a plan is in place, people are encouraged to continuously review the estate plan and update it if significant life events occur, such as marriages, divorces, retirements, births or deaths.
Likewise, communicating basic details with close family members or friends is also beneficial.