• A health-care power of attorney that designates an agent to make medical decisions for you.

• A “living will” or “advance medical directive” that specifies your decisions for your medical care during a terminal illness, coma, or persistent vegetative condition.
Insurance: You should also consider the merits of the following types of insurance to assist you if you become disabled:

• Long-term care insurance (as appropriate) to support your medical care and prevent depletion of your estate if you must spend a long time in a nursing facility.

• Disability insurance to supplement or replace your income if you are no longer able to work. This is a specialized area that requires competent advice. As a legal professional, you want to ensure that the policy covers for any disability that prevents you from working in the “same occupation,” not just from employment in any other field. For most legal professionals who have significant recurring monthly expenses, time away from work without pay would be devastating to their families. Although most larger firms have limited levels of this type of insurance in their benefits package, most professionals should consider acquiring additional coverage at their own expense.
When developing your estate plan, the major point for most lawyers and legal professionals to remember is, “Don’t go it alone!” Although it may appear simple to use form documents to draft your own estate plan (after all, most of you are paralegals or lawyers), the complexity of the tax laws, as well as the technicalities of each state’s probate laws, could cause you to make a major mistake with only a small misstep.

Accordingly, you should work with professionals trained in both estate and tax planning to ensure that your estate plan is properly designed and implemented. Planning is a process — not a conclusion or a single step. It continues to grow with you and your assets, and it is never too early too start the journey.

Todd I. Steinberg is a shareholder in the Washington, D.C., and McLean, Va., offices of Greenberg Traurig. He specializes in tax and estate planning.