The following factors are key elements in having a success estate plan:

Durable Power of Attorney

The durable power of attorney is the most important estate planning instrument – even more important than a will. A power of attorney allows you to appoint another person – your “attorney-in-fact” – to step in and manage your financial affairs if and when you ever become incapacitated. What happens if there is no durable power of attorney? Without it, a family must wait for a court to appoint a conservator or guardian to manage the incapacitated person’s affairs. That court process takes time, costs money, and the judge may not choose the person that the individual would have preferred. In addition, once a guardianship or conservatorship is in place, the representative may have to seek court permission to take planning steps that she could implement immediately under a simple durable power of attorney.

Last will and testament

If you do not have a will in place at the time of your death, the distribution of your assets and property will take longer as the court now has to decide what happens to your assets. This could leave any dependents in a precarious financial position for several years.

Living Will

The purpose of a living will is to guide your family and doctors in the event of you being unable to make your own medical decisions. Often a living will contains instructions about resuscitation in the event of heart failure, inability to breathe, or coma. Most living wills stipulate that the person does not want to be kept alive on life support systems and wishes to die naturally. The living will can also stipulate that no treatment for the terminal condition is provided, even if it could possibly prolong their life.