If you are in Bowling Green, KY, or anywhere in Warren County, call me, C. David Keen, Attorney at Law. You will receive representation with over two decades of specialized experience.
For many people, estate planning is one of those tasks that is easy to put off. It simply does not make it to the top of their To-Do lists. However, there is probably no better illustration of the old adage that ‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of Cure’ than estate planning. For most people, “estate planning” means obtaining a Last Will & Testament, a Power of Attorney and an advance directive for medical decisions. Compared to the time and expense required to do simple estate planning, the return on investment is dramatic.
Last Will and Testament
A Will is a legal document that communicates a person’s final wishes pertaining to possessions and dependents.
Here are 10 benefits of having a Last Will & Testament:
Knowing that you have put your estate in order brings peace of mind—the most frequently mentioned benefit.
You get to decide how your estate is distributed, rather than the distribution is determined by statute.
You make the probate of your estate much simpler, which lightens the burden that loved one must bear during a time of grief.
Probate is less expensive when you plan properly.
Sometimes, you can avoid probate altogether with minimal planning.
Good planning reduces the likelihood of conflict among your surviving family members.
Parents of minors can express their wishes regarding custody of their children.
Parents of minors can make provision for a testamentary (i.e. created by a Last Will & Testament) trust that determines how assets will be managed by the trustee that they have selected.
Parents of a minor can assure that their child does not receive his or her inheritance in a lump sum upon turning 18, instead of putting in place a plan to distribute assets according to particular milestones such as marriage, college graduation and the like.
Parents of a disabled child can direct assets to a trust in such a way that the child’s access to government healthcare benefits is preserved.
Power of Attorney
We recommend that everyone have a Power of Attorney, which is a legal instrument that grants authority to a trusted person who will make legal decisions on your behalf when you are unable to do so. Technically speaking, this person is your “attorney-in-fact.” However, because most people refer to this person as “Power of Attorney,” we will use the term POA here.
Choosing a POA is something you should do very carefully. For married people, granting your spouse POA usually makes sense. For elderly widows or widowers, it is usually beneficial to appoint an adult son or daughter who lives close enough to take care of your business affairs. We often recommend that people have more than one POA. One example of where having an additional POA can make a difference is a situation in which a married couple is involved in a serious accident. If both are incapacitated, then the additional POA can step up.
An “advance directive” is a legal document by which one person authorizes another to make medical decisions on his or her behalf. As people age, their ability to do so is often diminished while the level of care that they require usually increases. Although healthcare providers generally defer to the wishes of the family regarding treatment of a loved one, an advance directive is the best approach to medical decision-making for those with diminished mental capacity.
Most Power of Attorney documents include language that allows the POA to make medical decisions. It is a good practice, however, to have a document that specifically addresses medical decision-making. We recommend the execution of a Designation of Healthcare Surrogate, which functions as a Power of Attorney that is limited to medical decisions. A third type of advance directive, and the one most people are familiar with, is the Living Will. Most Living Wills have limited applicability in that they do not come into effect until the person has a “terminal condition.” That seems clear enough at first glance, but in practice it is sometimes rather difficult to utilize because it what constitutes a “terminal condition” may differ from one healthcare provider to another.
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