It is not enough to just get an estate plan. If you do not know what all of the documents in your plan are for and what you are supposed to do with them, then your estate plan is unlikely to be very effective.
Unfortunately, when many people consult an estate planning attorney, they tell the attorney what they want. The attorney then drafts an estate plan that includes various documents. When people go back to the attorney's office to sign the documents they are asked if they understand the documents and if they have any questions. For whatever reason, many people decline this opportunity to ask questions of their attorneys. Consequently, they sign their estate planning documents without knowing exactly what they are signing. This is truly unfortunate.
This problem was highlighted in a recent NWI Times question and answer column titled "Estate Planning: Why have a power of attorney."
Someone wrote in to say he had a power of attorney, but did not know what it was or what to do with it. If you, too, need to know the answers to those questions, then the original article gives a clear and concise answer.
Nevertheless, the bigger issue isn't just not knowing how and when to use a power of attorney. Here is the problem this reveals: people failing to ask questions of their estate planning attorneys.
You should never sign legal documents without knowing what they are, of course. When it comes to estate plans, your attorney is there to answer your questions and explain things to you.
Your attorney wants you to ask questions, so that he or she can make sure your estate plan will work as you intended. Do not pass up this opportunity.
Reference: NWI Times (September 20, 2014) "Estate Planning: Why have a power of attorney"