Basic Realife planning documents : the "big three."
Power of Attorney
This document allows you to name another person to act as your trusted fiduciary agent. It grants access and decision making powers over assets and is to be used very carefully. With a "Durable" power, finances can be handled in an emergency without court action or doctors' affidavits. Your agent must have the document to act. This power ends at death.
Health Care Agent and Advance Directive
This is a state regulated appointment that allows you to name another person to discuss your condition with your health care providers, have access to your health care records, and make medical treatment decisions for you. You may include direction regarding your specific end of life wishes.
Testamentary Direction: Wills and Trusts
A will nominates someone to oversee the transfer of your property to your “heirs at law” or other people you nominate to inherit. It grants specific powers and allows you to make decisions about how taxes and debts are paid.
A trust is a legal device that can be used to manage your property during your lifetime and to distribute your property after your death.
If you die without any properly drafted documents making directions about where you want your things to go- no matter how small your "estate" is, this is called dying "intestate." The state has a hierarchy of family relation who are entitled to your assets and the court will nominate someone to over see this process.