That Other Tough Conversation

Estate planning is important for anyone over the age of 18. It does matter if you have a small or large bank account, if you are a parent or not, or if you are old or young. A typical estate plan includes a will, durable power of attorney and advance health care directive, says the Pensacola News Journal in the article “Let’s Talk About: Estate Planning.”

What makes up an estate? Your home, cars, investments, bank accounts, retirement accounts and any belongings you own. Your will, which is also known as a “Last Will and Testament”, is a way to create a legally binding document with instructions as to who should get these possessions when you have died. Your will should also include directions about who will care for your children, if they are still minors under the legal age of adulthood.

If you die without a will, your family will have to deal with more than the grief of losing you. They’ll have to go through a legal quagmire to settle your estate. Family members often end up in expensive and emotionally devastating legal battles, when there is no clear will from the deceased.

A durable power of attorney lets you name someone to make important decisions on your behalf, if you are too sick to be able to speak for yourself. This is especially important for elderly people but can also come into play for younger adults. 

The advance health care directive allows someone to make decisions about your health. We think about this as concerning older people.  However, there are tragic instances where younger people also need to have this document. It also allows family members to access medical records and talk with physicians. Without it, doctors are not legally permitted to discuss care or decisions, even with a young adult’s own parents. It can also allow you to designate the treatment you would authorize (or not authorize) and when.

A living will may be available to focus on end-of-life care. Do you want to be placed on a respirator, if you cannot breathe for yourself? What about being an organ donor? 

These are tough questions and the contemplation of one’s own mortality is never pleasant.  However, by having these conversations with your family members and by making sure you have an estate plan in place prepared by an experienced estate planning attorney, you can spare your family, loved ones and yourself, a good deal of stress and worry.

Make an appointment to meet with an elder law attorney. They’ll be able to create the documents you need to protect your family and ensure that your wishes are followed. There could be other planning tools, such as trusts that may be useful in your estate plan.

Resource: Pensacola News Journal (July 24, 2018) Let’s Talk About: Estate Planning

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