No one wants to think about the loss of a loved one, but failing to make appropriate plans can add turmoil to an already difficult situation. The Phillips Firm, PLLC can help with your estate planning matters, such as planning for distribution and/or control of your assets, issues related to medical care, matters related to raising your children if you pass away before they are legal adults, and more.
Estate planning involves several documents that tell your family, friends, doctors, financial institutions, and the courts what you want to have happen in case something happens to you. Estate Planning also involves advice on the beneficiary designations for handling of non-probate assets, including life insurance policies, bank accounts, brokerage accounts, 401Ks, IRAs and profit sharing plans. Having the appropriate documents in place can save you and your family worry, heartache and money.
The size, nature and character of your estate may change how an estate planning lawyer advises you, but the average adult typically needs at least the following five legal documents:
- Last Will and Testament: Executing a Will is your chance to say exactly how and to whom you want your property to be distributed after your death. If you have minor children, a will can provide you with the opportunity to designate who will serve as a Guardian and/or Trustees for those children.
- Medical Power of Attorney: This document allows you to designate, in advance, who you want to make medical decisions in the event that you become incapacitated. You can also designate alternates so that you are protected in the event that your preferred agent is unable or unwilling to serve.
- HIPAA Release: It is important that the person you name as your Medical Power of Attorney has access to the necessary medical records, charts, x-rays, etc. In this age of medial privacy laws, the ability to make decisions does not necessarily authorize the decision-maker to have access to all of the information essential to making an informed decision. Thus the HIPPA Wavier is an essential companion to the Medical Power of Attorney.
- Statutory Durable Power of Attorney: This document allows you to designate who you want to make decisions regarding your possessions and/or finances either now or in the event you become incapacitated.
- Advanced Directive (aka “Living Will”): No one wants to put a family member in the difficult position of making the decision related to the use of life support to artificially extend life. This document allows you to express your wishes regarding your medical care in the event that it is determined that you are in either a terminal or an irreversible condition and takes the burden of that decision off of the person you designate as your Medical Power of Attorney.
In addition to the above, it may also be advisable to consider the following additional documents:
- Agent to Control Disposition of Remains: Families change over time and, as a result of some of those changes, there are sometimes questions regarding who is responsible for deciding where and how a loved one’s body is laid to rest. By appointing an Agent to Control Disposition of Remains, you can avoid family strife during a period of extreme grief.
- Declaration of Guardian: No one expects to lose the ability to care for themselves, but just like buying insurance, picking a guardian in advance helps the courts ensure that your wishes are executed when the time comes.
- Declaration for Mental Health Treatment: Disease can happen at any age, but as medical science advances in its ability to extend life, mental health care treatment of the elderly has become increasingly common. It is possible to make some of the decisions related to your care in before the needs arise.