Creating an estate plan means sparing your family a lot of unnecessary trouble and expense after you die. However, how do you know when your estate plan is complete, and what do you do with it then?
It is important to have an estate plan that fits your situation and covers all likely contingencies. It may be a relief to have it completed, but you cannot just ignore it from that point forward.
What should your estate plan include?
If your estate is relatively simple or small, you do not necessarily need to include all the estate planning documents. You can choose those that work well for your situation. You may need a will and/or trust to distribute your property after your death.
It is also a very good idea to have a living will. If at some point you are no longer able to make your own health care decisions, a living will communicates your wishes to your family and health care providers. However, because a living will cannot anticipate every possible situation that may arise during your end-of-life care, you may also wish to appoint a health care power of attorney or proxy.
What should you do with your estate plan?
It may be a good idea to make both digital and hard copies of estate planning documents and distribute them to people with roles to play in executing the estate plan. For example, your doctor should have a copy of your living will and your proxy should have a copy of your health care power of attorney. Some people do not feel comfortable giving out copies of estate planning documents. At the very least, you should communicate their location to family members or loved ones.
Regardless of whether or not you decide to make copies, you should keep the originals in a safe place. However, do not choose a location that is so secure that the designated people cannot access it if necessary. For example, safe deposit boxes require a court order to open if you die and leave behind no co-signer, so you should not put your original documents there.