Aug. 24, 2009 — -- For all the grief the death of Michael Jackson caused worldwide, the King of Pop's passing seemed to create even more legal controversy.
From custody battles to suits over Jackson's estate, Jackson's memory was clouded by legal power plays.
Though controversies surrounding celebrity deaths tend to be high profile, many of the same legal battles ensue for thousands of American families every year.
But according to family legal and financial expert Alexis Martin Neely, there are five documents that every parent should have to streamline the process and make sure their family is taken care of should the worst happen.
Living Will and Financial Durable Power of Attorney
There are two documents that Neely said go together -- a Living Will and a Financial Durable Power of Attorney.
They are documents in place not for when the parent dies, but in case the parent is hospitalized and cannot communicate, Neely said.
The documents name the people who should make the health care, legal and financial decisions for you if you can't make them for yourself.
Top 5 Must-Have Legal Documents
Trust, in Addition to a Will
Most people think estate planning or "having your affairs in order" means having a will, but that's a misconception, Neely said.
The will only tells the court what to do with your assets, but it doesn't keep your family out of court. In fact, the will can put them in court for completely public and expensive proceedings.
A trust, instead, is often a better option.
The trust is what keeps the family out of court and will make things as easy as possible for your loved ones, Neely said. It spells out exactly what you want to happen to your assets and who you want to take care of things for you.
Kids Protection Plan
Less popular than the others, a Kids Protection Plan is a set of documents that ensures that your kids are taken care of, not just in the long term, but in the short term, Neely said.
In the documents you can name guardianship for the long term for the people you want to raise your kids, make their health care and education decisions. But for the short term, the Kids Protection Plan also allows you to dictate what should be done with your kids even in the hours after something has happened to you by naming short-term guardians.
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