Three legal documents - a will, powers of attorney, and an advance directive - are essential elements in an overall strategy to protect the ones you love, providing a measure of certainty when you can't. An estate planning attorney can help you create and update these legal documents.

WILL

A will is the one document most people need, even when they don't have great wealth. A will can direct how your assets are distributed and provide crucial instructions for taking care of minor and special-needs children. It can provide basic information such as the names of potential guardians and directions for distributing assets to care for those left behind.

POWERS OF ATTORNEY

Financial powers of attorney name a person who will handle your financial affairs if you can't. Two common types of these assignments are limited and durable powers of attorney. Singular events, such as an absence when signing a legal document is required, might activate limited powers. Durable powers of attorney typically go into effect when people are incapacitated and can't make financial decisions for themselves.

ADVANCE DIRECTIVE

When you can't make healthcare decisions for yourself, an advance directive can provide general guidance. For instance, you may not want resuscitation or ventilator assistance if you are nearing end of life or have suffered significant brain damage. Alternatively, you can assign healthcare, or medical, powers of attorney to individuals who would make these decisions for you.