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3 important documents to include in your estate plans

When you hear the words “estate plans,” the first thing that may come to your mind is wills. You may already be aware that wills are useful tools to instruct your loved ones on how to distribute your possessions after you die. However, they do not contain much information about your end-of-life care. Many people overlook the fact that estate plans can help to improve their quality of life as they get older. With old age comes declining health and the likelihood of you needing assistance with your daily activities, financial affairs and more. 

You may expect to be in good health until you die. But you should have plans in place to instruct your loved ones on how to handle your affairs and medical needs if you were to unexpectedly fall ill or become injured and unable to care for yourself. Here are three estate planning documents you should have. 

1. Durable power of attorney 

Your bills do not stop in the event of serious illness and injury. You may not be able to manage them while you recover. To stay current on your financial obligations, you can use a durable power of attorney to designate a trusted individual to manage your financial affairs for you. Be sure to choose someone who is financially savvy and responsible. A durable power of attorney gives them the legal authority to act as your agent and make withdrawals and deposits to your bank accounts, pay your bills, manage your taxes and deal with your financial advisors. 

2. Advanced health care directive 

You should create an advanced health care directive to give certain family members the authority to make medical decisions regarding your medical care when you cannot. You can specify one or several individuals to oversee your medical and health care affairs. If you choose more than one person, be sure to outline their responsibilities to prevent confusion and conflicts. 

3. HIPAA release authorization 

When a loved one falls ill, unless there is a HIPAA release authorization in place, their medical team and health care providers cannot share and disclose patient information with any of the patient's relatives. To protect your privacy and make it easier for your designated relatives to make decisions about your care according to your wishes and without interference from family members, you should include a HIPAA release form in your estate plans. 

Because estate plans allow you to retain some measure of control when you cannot speak or act for yourself, you should be diligent in choosing the right individuals to act in your stead. You should also review and update those selections frequently to prevent complications.

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