Why Your Estate Plan Must Include More than a Will
A Last Will and Testament is an essential legal document that allows you to accomplish a number of important goals. You can name your beneficiaries and specify the assets you want them to receive; name a guardian for your minor children; and choose the person you want to settle your estate (known as the Executor).
In short, a Will helps ensure your wishes are carried out after you pass away. However, it does not ensure that your wishes regarding your finances and medical care will be followed if you become incapacitated. For that you will need other essential documents.
Advanced Care Directive
An Advance Care Directive takes the place of several documents used in the past. One of the best known is the Living Will, which in the past was pretty much limited to saying that a person did not want extraordinary means used if they have reached a point where they cannot improve past a “vegetative state.” A Power of Attorney for Health Care, also known as a Health Care Proxy, allows you to name a person you trust to make health care decisions on your behalf if you are no longer able to make them on your own. A HIPPA Release lets you choose who can receive information about your medical condition. Hospitals and medical providers can be prosecuted for violating the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) if they reveal your medical information to people not named in your HIPPA Release.
The Advanced Care Directive does all of these. It can state the care you want to receive, end-of-life decisions, such as the use of feeding tubes; and do not resuscitate orders; name an agent for you and give directions to that agent. In addition, it spares your loved ones from having to make difficult decisions about your care without knowing what you would have wanted.
Durable Power of Attorney for Finances
Similar in concept to the Power of Attorney for Health Care, a Power of Attorney for Finances allows you to designate another person to make decisions about your finances, such as income, assets, and investments, when you can longer make them yourself.
By choosing your decision-makers in advance through powers of attorney, you and your loved ones can avoid the expense, stress, delays, and potential for family infighting associated with a court-ordered guardianship proceeding.
To ensure your wishes are carried out while you are alive and after you pass away, your estate plan should include all of the legal documents mentioned above.
Of course, estate planning can help you accomplish many other goals as well. For example, with a Revocable Living Trust your estate won’t have to go through probate. This will expedite the distribution of estate assets to loved ones and keep your financial information private. A Revocable Living Trust also allows you to stipulate when and under what conditions your heirs will receive their assets, which is useful if you think your children are not yet mature enough to handle an inheritance. Other tools, such as an Irrevocable Trust, can protect your assets against threats like long-term care costs, divorce, creditors, lawsuits, and more.
We invite you to contact us at your earliest convenience to discuss your unique planning needs and goals.