Hard working people, young and old alike, are often so busy with everyday life that they never get around to some of the basic legal documents that every adult should have in place. Those documents are a will, a healthcare power of attorney, and a durable business power of attorney. Each has a special function to assure that your wishes are carried out after your death, or in the event you are incapacitated.
Most people’s concept of a will, also called a last will and testament, is of a document that determines what happens to your property when you die. But the reality is more complex. Perhaps the most important function of a will is to see to your minor children’s care when both parents are deceased. A will can designate a guardian to see to their day-to-day care, as well as place your assets into a trust in order to provide financially for them. Without a will, a probate court usually must decide these issues, a process that can be costly and traumatic for families.
It is important to have good legal advice in preparing and executing a will, so as to avoid common pitfalls that can defeat your intentions: First, certain types of assets normally do not pass under a will, such as accounts with a designated beneficiary or property that is held in joint tenancy with a right of survivorship. Second, many people are not aware that state statutes mandate that spouses are entitled to a certain share of their spouse’s estate, even if the will says differently. Third, and perhaps most importantly, state statutes also mandate a very specific procedure for signing a will. If this procedure is not followed, then the will is invalid. These are just a few of the possible difficulties that can arise.
In addition to a will, every adult should have a healthcare power of attorney / living will document. This document permits your designated agent to make healthcare decisions for you in the event you are incapacitated or not able to make decisions for yourself. It is vital to choose someone you trust to decide in accord with your wishes and beliefs, rather than leave these decisions to fate. This is particularly important when it comes to controversial issues like continuation of life support, and the provision of nutrition and hydration.
Finally, it is useful in some cases to have a durable general power of attorney. This document designates someone you trust to undertake important non-healthcare decisions on your behalf. The word “durable” means that the power of attorney continues in force even if you become incapacitated.
With these documents in place, you can substantially increase the likelihood that your wishes will be carried out when you are no longer able to make those decisions for yourself.« Back to news