Where there is a will, there is a way
A will is the best-known component of an estate plan. Not just for seniors, a will gives you the opportunity to choose your beneficiaries and direct the flow of your wealth when you pass away. Without a properly executed will, your estate passes to beneficiaries designated by the state in amounts decided by law, and funds inherited by minors will be inaccessible for their support, without a Court order. Components of your will should include the following:
• A named executor to administer your estate
• A named guardian of underage children and a trustee to manage assets on their behalf
• Designation of property, valuables and possessions to beneficiaries
• Bequests to individuals or organizations
• Trusts to ensure care for the special needs of disabled or other dependent individuals
Boilerplate forms downloaded from the Internet may not be effective when needed, and can cause significant financial loss to your estate by ignoring important resources or all available options. You need an experienced attorney to help design your estate plan.
Two additional estate planning documents are crucial to secure your wishes should you become temporarily or permanently incapacitated:
• Power of Attorney (POA): A Power of Attorney allows you to designate an agent to manage financial and property matters. As with a healthcare proxy, your agent should be someone you trust to carry out your wishes under the stress of your incapacitation. While boilerplate forms contain standard provisions for your agent to act on your behalf, they are insufficient to do many of the most important things an agent may need to do on behalf of a person who has become incapacitated.
• Healthcare Proxy (HCP): A Health Care Proxy should be executed by any adult over age 18 in case of temporary or permanent incapacitation. This document details your wishes as to health care interventions and end-of-life measures if in a persistent vegetative or terminal state. While speaking with physicians or loved ones about care you would — or would not — like to receive is important, it is necessary to reduce your instructions to writing and provide copies to appropriate parties.
Making palliative care decisions and designating an agent to act on your behalf is not an emotionally easy task — but it is essential to fulfilling your wishes for your own life and allowing family and loved ones to care for you while respecting those wishes.