Let’s face it – the majority of us are not comfortable thinking about, talking about or doing something about our end of life planning. Estates plans are a gift we can give our loved ones while we are still alive and they also help spell out our wishes. At the very least, an estate plan should include a Last Will and Testament, Durable Power of Attorney, (often called Power of Attorney) and Healthcare Power of Attorney (sometimes referred to as Medical Directive).
Like most everyone, my husband and I procrastinated having our estate plans create and executed but we finally did and I am so thankful.
We were naïve and didn’t fully understand what a power of attorney or healthcare power of attorney does and does not do, and while we thought we understood what a last will and testament did, we learned so much through the process. I’m glad to say we have gained a good bit of knowledge and now have solid estate plans in place, including our wills, powers of attorney and healthcare powers of attorney.
We have met with our children and we have given them an overview of what our estate plans include and why we made the decisions we did. While our decisions are personal and unique to our family dynamics, finances and personal choices, I feel there are some basics questions everyone person and/or couple should be able to answer as they begin the process of creating their estate plans.
- What assets do we have that will pass through our estate rather than be distributed through beneficiary designations (link to the page about bene designations)?
- Who do we want these assets to go to?
- If we both die together, who should our wills state died first, and why?
- Do we have any situations in our family that require special consideration? For example, a disabled child, a potential heir that has a drug problem or any other scenario where if money were to pass to this individual it would cause issues for assistance or other areas.
- Do we need a trust? If so, what would be the goal of the trust? How will we fund the trust?
- Who do we want to make financial and other personal decisions for us should we become incapacitated? Will we have on Power of Attorney or joint Powers of Attorney? What do we want them to be able to do? What do want them to not be able to do on our behalf?
- Who do we want to make healthcare decisions on our behalf? What decisions would we want made should we be unable to communicate these for ourselves? Should we have someone with some medical experience be our Healthcare Power of Attorney? Should it not be a family member as they may be too emotional to carry out our wishes?
- Our family is small and we often vacation together. We had to add a codicile that contained a catastrophic clause to our estate plan that addresses want we wish to happen to our assets should we all perish in a plane crash or other catastrophe that took all our lives at one time.
The list of questions is infinite because each person or family has very individual thoughts on how they want their will, Power of Attorney and Healthcare Power of Attorney created and executed. It’s worth the time and effort to solicit the help of an experienced estate planning attorney to help you create the legal documents to help ensure your wishes are well documented, legal and executed.