No matter if you’re single, married, rich, poor, with children or without, there are certain legal documents that you need to protect your family and your assets if something were to happen to you. Personal family lawyer Alexis Martin Neely breaks them down:
1. Kids Protection Plan. If you have children, you need to have a plan in place that names guardians (she suggests also having an ID card in your wallet that states that you have kids at home and lists the number of a guardian – just in case). You can craft a plan for free at KidsProtectionPlan.com, where you can name legal guardians for your children. This is completely regardless of your finances, Neely says. Do it now if you haven’t already.
2. Will. Again, regardless of how wealthy you are, you need to make sure your money and personal belongings get to who need them in the event of your death.
3. Living Trust. If you have substantial assets and wealth, a trust will keep it easy for your loved ones to be protected. If you don’t have a living trust, a court could end up divvying up your financial and other assets in the event of your death.
4. Power of Attorney. Once you turn 18, you need a durable power of attorney. This gives certain people the ability to make legal and financial decisions for you should you become incapacitated.
5. Health Care Directive. Similar to a power of attorney, a health care directive lets you name certain people to make healthcare decisions for you if you cannot.
Neely recommends working with one lawyer on all these documents (except for the kid’s protection plan, which you can do on your own). If something unfortunate happens, you don’t want your family to figure things out on their own. By having a lifetime relationship with a single lawyer, you can keep everything up-to-date and be confident that there is someone there to help your family. To find a lawyer for these documents, ask around for referrals or go to PersonalFamilyLawyer.com.