Preparing for the end of one’s life here on Earth can sometimes be a daunting and even a scary proposition. Some people have a difficult time in facing end of life issues, especially when it comes to one’s belongings. As we experience and ramble through this life, we collect things: some valuable and some sentimental. Whatever the belief you have in what happens after you pass away, it generally always means that you cannot take it with you when you have taken your last breath. Thus, if you are concerned to any extent about your loved ones, the institutions and programs you support, and your possessions, you should consider an estate plan to put into place specific guidelines and directions as to how your estate may leave a lasting heritage.
At minimum, one should have three documents in your cache of important documents: 1) a power of attorney for healthcare; 2) a power of attorney for property; 3) a last will and testament. The first two documents are used while one is still alive while the third becomes operative when a person passes away.
First, a power of attorney for healthcare provides for directions regarding how you are to be treated in the event that you are incapacitated and become unable to make decisions for yourself. This document appoints another person with the authority to make decisions for you regarding your healthcare such as organ donation; whether or not you want life support, and if so the extent you want life support. Such a document oftentimes relieves one’s loved ones of having to make difficult decisions while dealing with the fact that you are likely in a medical predicament. Additionally, it provides the medical staff with a lens that has certain and distinct guidelines from which they can treat you. Oftentimes, I will prepare a document that includes a living will. The living will portion allows a person to set out guidelines for treatment such as how much life support you want. Your power of attorney for healthcare then will make decisions based upon those guidelines.
Second, a power of attorney for property provides for directions regarding how your property and possessions will be addressed in the event you are incapacitated and become unable to make decisions for yourself. Like the power of attorney for healthcare, this document appoints another person with the legal authority to make decisions regarding your finances, your accounts, and personal possessions if you are unable to do so. A person appointed as power of attorney for property can be granted authority do such things as pay your bills, sell your property, or invest your money.
Third, a last will and testament is a document that outlines what will happen to your estate when you pass away. Your estate is the totality of your possessions which may include money, real property, jewelry, automobiles, bitcoin, family heirlooms, photographs, clothing, housewares, and other valuable items that you have collected over your lifespan. These are the items that you can’t take with you when you pass away that I mentioned above. This document also appoints a person to be your executor or personal representative to carry out the directives in the last will and testament. The document may also provide for guardians for your minor children, if you have any, and if there are any trusts to be formed for their benefit should you pass away. These very specific issues can be addressed in the will and can give you much peace of mind.
At minimum, these documents should be in your possession whether you are 30, 60 or 90. They can be changed or even withdrawn at any time after being executed. Not only can they give you peace of mind, they also create your legacy when you pass away. If you would like to speak to an attorney regarding estate planning, please do not hesitate to contact me to discuss how I can be of help to you in putting these documents in your cache of important documents.
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