The Crucial Importance of Having a Will and Power of Attorney Documents - Estate Planning
The Crucial Importance of Having a Will and Power of Attorney Documents
Death and incapacitation are inevitable aspects of the human experience, yet they are topics often avoided in discussions. I have often been called in those critical moments where tragedy has appeared in the life of a family and they don't know what to do.
I decided to write this blog today because I received a call from an old friend. I had lost her number but found her sister and passed my number along. I had heard their mother was about to pass. A few hours later my friend called and we had a cheerful and tearful conversation. At one point she said, "I was thinking about you the other day. We were preparing with the Hospice people and they were asking for Powers of Attorney and whether Mom had a will. I thought about you and thought, thank God for Jim talking to my parents and walking them through what they needed. I handed over the documents and that was all taken care of." It made my day to know what I do as an attorney brought comfort to a friend at a rough time.
Preparing for these eventualities is not just prudent; it's a responsibility that reflects one's care and consideration for loved ones. Two critical legal documents that can alleviate the burdens associated with such situations are a will and power of attorney documents. These documents offer a sense of control, ensuring that a person's wishes are respected and their affairs managed smoothly even when they are unable to do so themselves.
The Will: A Lasting Testament of Intent
A will is a legal document that outlines an individual's final wishes regarding the distribution of their assets after their passing. While the thought of mortality can be unsettling, a well-constructed will brings peace of mind. Without a will, the distribution of assets follows intestacy laws, which might not align with the deceased's preferences and lead to disputes among family members.
Creating a will allows a person to clearly state how they want their property, investments, possessions, and even sentimental items to be distributed. It can prevent legal battles and emotional turmoil among family members who might otherwise be left to interpret vague or ambiguous wishes. A will can also enable the nomination of guardians for minor children, ensuring their well-being is safeguarded according to the deceased's wishes.
Power of Attorney: Navigating Life's Uncertainties
While a will addresses the disposition of assets after death, power of attorney documents deal with managing affairs during one's lifetime, especially in cases of incapacitation. There are different types of power of attorney, but the two most common are:
Financial Power of Attorney: This document designates a trusted individual to make financial decisions and manage assets on behalf of the person granting the power. It becomes invaluable if someone becomes mentally or physically unable to manage their financial matters. Without this document, families might face bureaucratic hurdles to access and manage the incapacitated person's finances.
Medical Power of Attorney (Healthcare Proxy): This document appoints someone to make medical decisions on behalf of the individual if they are unable to do so themselves due to illness or incapacitation. It ensures that medical choices align with the person's values and beliefs, eliminating the burden of making difficult decisions from loved ones during a time of distress.
The Emotional and Practical Benefits
Beyond the legal aspects, having a will and power of attorney documents also has profound emotional benefits. It relieves loved ones of the burden of making critical decisions without guidance and minimizes potential conflicts. Grieving family members can focus on supporting one another and celebrating the person's life rather than grappling with uncertainties and disagreements.
Furthermore, these documents grant individuals a sense of control over their legacy. They provide an avenue to leave behind cherished possessions to specific individuals or charitable causes close to their hearts. This control extends to medical decisions as well, allowing someone to decide their preferred medical treatments and interventions beforehand.
The Sooner, the Better
Procrastination is common when it comes to creating a will and power of attorney documents. People often associate these documents with old age or illness, leading them to delay their creation. However, life is unpredictable, and accidents or unforeseen health issues can occur at any age. Waiting until a critical moment might mean it's too late to draft these documents when they are most needed.
Having a will and power of attorney documents is not just a legal requirement; it's a compassionate gesture towards loved ones. I have been a pastor for 30 years and have seen how these documents help keep families out of Court and conflict.
A well-written estate plan provides clarity and guidance during times of uncertainty and distress. They ensure that one's legacy is preserved, their assets are distributed as intended, and their medical decisions align with personal values. By addressing these matters proactively, individuals take control of their future and alleviate unnecessary burdens from their families. It's never too early to plan for the inevitable and give oneself and their loved ones the gift of security and peace of mind.
I would love to help your family. My process starts with a strategy session, a one-hour personal consultation where we go over the nuts and bolts of estate planning, discuss how to keep assets out of probate and answer your questions. Next, we prepare draft documents which you review and approve once you are satisfied. Finally, we bring you back to the office if you are local (I provide instructions for how to sign documents for all other clients) and my notary and two witnesses will be there to authenticate your documents so you can bring them home that day. To get started call 609-270-7590 to set up an Estate Planning Strategy Session.