A trust is a document that can accomplish many things. It keeps your family out of probate, maintains their privacy, can protect your assets, and allows you to maintain control over the assets for many years.
Last Will and Testament
A list of final gifts and instructions. Unlike a trust, a Will must go through probate to be validated and the assets distributed. The “testator”, creator of the will, does not get to have long term control over the gifts. Typically, if a trust is involved, the will simply “pours” everything not in the trust into the trust.
A deed executed now that passes your property at your death. Similar to payable on death for accounts, or transfer on death for car titles.
Durable Power of Attorney
This names the people you want to manage your affairs when you aren’t able to (or don’t want to). You get to make the choice of who manages your affairs instead of a Judge. You get to limit their power to what you want.
Allows your trusted representative to see your medical information so they can make informed decisions.
Medical Durable Power of Attorney
A healthcare power of attorney names the people you want to make your healthcare decisions when you can’t. If you don’t, then family will need to go to court to let a Judge name the person who will be in charge.
Advanced Directive (Living Will)
Don’t confuse this with your last will and testament. This is a healthcare document. In it you make the decision now if you want to be kept alive artificially if nothing else can be done.
Without this, even your family doesn’t have the legal authority to get information about your health information or records. Without it, they may have difficulty making healthcare decisions for you when you can’t. It would take a court order instead and that means a trip or trips to court.
Let your personal representative know you final desires. Cremation vs. Burial, wake or no wake, viewing or not, where arrangements have been made, what songs and readings you want, etc.