For many New Yorkers, estate planning is not something they actively think about. It is an unfortunate reality that life is fleeting, and people can suddenly find themselves in need of these vital documents. Estate planning can ensure their assets are allocated as they wish, their family is protected, and other common issues are addressed. With the recent news stories of wealthy people who died without estate planning documents, it is imperative to be prepared for the future. Knowing the basics is fundamental.

Whether it is a simple estate or a more complex one, those who want the basics should consider three documents. Wills are useful to ensure assets are distributed the way the testator wants. When there is no will, the state will analyze the situation based on the law and determine how to distribute the property. In many instances, this is different from what the person would have wanted had they crafted a will. Wills can apply to anything, including real estate, bank accounts, artwork and more. If there are children under 18, a guardian can be named to care for the child. Anything that the person wants done after they have passed on can be mentioned in the will.

A living will has medical instructions if something happens to the person and they become incapacitated and cannot communicate. This will protect family members from difficult decisions and keep the person from getting treatment that is not desired.

A power of attorney will let another person handle the affairs of the testator, such as paying bills. Often, this is the person’s spouse, but it can be anyone they trust with these important decisions. The power of attorney can state exactly how far the decision-making authority can go.

While many people need a more intricate and complex estate plan, those who are avoiding the topic or do not understand the significance should get the basics in order. Other areas can be dealt with later, but a will, a living will and a power of attorney are all critical for everyone. An estate planning law firm can explain the need for these documents and assist in crafting them.