When we say that estate plans require preparation for success, what do we mean? Well, for starters making wishes clear to family members verbally is never enough to satisfy legal standards. Quite the opposite occurs when family members refuse to follow verbal requests, especially when personal grievances come to the surface during times of grief. Beck & Lenox Estate Planning and Elder Law has helped families for almost 50 years to get their wishes documented and get a plan in place that protects families and family assets. We offer this article on the subject, “Preparation is essential part of estate plan” from The News-Enterprise.
A second misconception concerns the spouse or children being able to step in and take action for a loved one solely based on the family relationship.
Many parents have children who would make poor agents, so many don’t name their children to act on their behalf. Even if you want your spouse or child to act on your behalf, you have to name them in the proper legal documents.
A third frequent misconception is that documents can be created when needed. Not so! Documents like Power of Attorney, Health Care Power of Attorney, Living Will and others must be created well in advance. An incapacitated person cannot sign legal documents, so if no planning has been done, the family will have to petition the court to name a guardian—an expensive, time-consuming and complicated process.
Every adult should have three basic documents while they are in good health: a Health Care Power of Attorney, a Durable Power of Attorney and a Last Will and Testament.
The Health Care Power of Attorney gives another person (known as power of attorney or POA) the right to make healthcare decisions for you if you are unable to do so. It also gives the POA the right to access protected health care information, including medical and health insurance records. It may also be used to authorize organ and/or tissue donation and set limitations for donation. In addition, the document may direct end-of-life decisions regarding artificial life support. Lastly, if specifically named in the health care power of attorney, the Right of Sepulchre allows your POA to make decisions about funeral arrangements and burial decisions after you have passed away. This last provision is the only power that extends past death.
The Durable Power of Attorney allows another person to handle legal and financial matters. It can be effective upon signing or upon incapacity. Without correctly executed Powers of Attorney, the family will need to apply for guardianship if the family member is already deemed incapacitated.
The Last Will and Testament determines who should receive any specific property and how your property is to be divided and distributed. Wills are only effective upon death, so any property in the will continues to be yours until death. Wills name the executor that you have chosen to be responsible for administering the estate. It can also be used to set up additional protections for disabled beneficiaries, minor children and others who are not good with finances.
Speak with an experienced estate planning attorney to get these essential documents in place for when life doesn’t go as expected. Estate plans require preparation for success, and your family will greatly appreciate you caring enough to get it done. Click here if interested in speaking with one of our attorneys at Beck & Lenox.
Reference: The News-Enterprise (May 13, 2023) “Preparation is essential part of estate plan”