Most adults in the United States do not have a will or any sort of end-of-life planning completed. In the wake of the current pandemic, more people are realizing that, while not pleasant to think about, it is important that your loved ones will be taken care of should something unexpected happen to you. Now is the perfect time to make sure you have the appropriate documents ensuring that your health, property and affairs will be handled as you wish should the worst happen.
Why Get a Will?
Although laws can determine how your property is distributed should you die without a will, or “intestate,” these laws often do not distribute property as the owner would have wished and simply make standard distributions among the closest family members by blood. With a will, you can ensure that your property goes to exactly the person you wish. A will may also specify what you wish to be done with your remains and can give your loved ones instructions regarding how to handle your estate.
Wills are highly customizable and can accomplish even more than just distribution of property. Another popular provision in wills is the creation of a trust for minor beneficiaries—usually, the minor children of the person. In the will, you can specify when you would like your children to gain access to their inheritance from you and under what conditions. You can also designate a guardian for them and a “conservator,” or a person who will manage their finances. Although these can be the same person, they do not have to be.
You can also make provisions for the care of pets, as well as many other personal decisions that may be uncommon, but important to you.
What is a Durable Power of Attorney?
A Durable Power of Attorney is a document that gives authority to someone you trust to be able to manage your affairs if you are unable to do so. Usually, these powers include functions such as the ability to use your bank account to pay your bills and for other general purposes, such as managing investments, accepting or disclaiming inheritances, and changing beneficiaries for things like life insurance. Durable Powers of Attorney often also allow the agent, or “attorney-in-fact” to make gifts of the property of the “principal,” or the person whose affairs are being managed with the Durable Power of Attorney.
Although it may seem frightening to allow someone to have so much control over your affairs, this may be preferable to becoming unable to manage your own affairs without having given someone that power. If this happens, you may be unable to make changes you otherwise would have. However, it is important to only give this authority to someone you absolutely trust to follow your own wishes.
It is also important to note that, like Wills, Durable Powers of Attorney are customizable. If for some reason you would not like to grant your attorney-in-fact the ability to make certain transactions, you can specify that the Durable Power of Attorney does not grant that power. It is not only possible, but simple, to ensure that your Durable Power of Attorney does exactly what you wish it to.
Especially in the wake of so many people facing uncertain futures regarding their health, Durable Powers of Attorney are an excellent option to gain peace of mind and know that, should something happen to you, your affairs will be managed effectively.
Why Get a Health Care Power of Attorney?
Health Care Powers of Attorney are documents that enable you to receive health care according to your wishes when you are unable to make important decisions. Their primary function is to appoint someone you trust to make health care decisions for you when you are unable to do so. This may be especially important if you want someone other than your legal next of kin to make such decisions for you. However, you can also use them to specify your wishes regarding organ donation and the handling of your body after death, for example.
Like other estate planning documents, the Health Care Power of Attorney can also be customized to an extent. If you have specific wishes, you can insert extra limitations on your agent’s authority to make decisions for you, especially regarding decisions such as withholding artificial nutrition and hydration.
Health Care Powers of Attorney are a crucial tool to help ensure that your health care is handled as you would want it to be in uncertain situations.
Living Wills are primarily used to ensure that your wishes are followed regarding certain treatments common in end-of-life care, such as artificial nutrition and hydration. However, if you have a Health Care Power of Attorney and completely trust your agent to make the right decisions regarding your end of life care, you may not need a living will.
Although most people do not want to think about their wishes regarding such treatments, especially if they are young and healthy, no one ever knows for sure when they may need to make such decisions. The last thing you might want is for your loved ones to have to make such decisions for you without knowing what you would want. The Living Will takes little time to complete and can eliminate such uncertainty, giving you valuable peace of mind.
In Living Wills, you can determine if you would like your specific wishes to be followed as stated, or you can choose to let your “agent,” or the person you appoint to make health care decisions for you, to make decisions which override those wishes. This might be a good option if you absolutely trust your agent to decide as you would or if you are not completely sure what treatment you would want to receive in certain situations. However, again, if you absolutely trust your agent to make the right decisions, using a Living Will to restrict this authority may not be the best option. We can help you decide if a Living Will is right for you during our consultation.
At King Latham Law, PLLC, we believe that all adults need and can benefit from the estate planning documents we offer and would be glad to help you create what you need. Please call us today to schedule a consultation, where we can answer any questions you may have about the estate planning process.