What is an estate plan? Your will is only half the story.
Let's talk about estate planning. Last Will and Testament; Living Will; Power of Attorney. These are all terms you may have heard in relation to estate planning. They are all important. But the one part of estate planning most people tend to focus on is the last will and testament.
The last will and testament, or "will" for short, controls what happens to your property after you pass away. I consider a will to be a gift to your family and loved ones because it really simplifies the process of administering your estate after you pass away, and can save them significant time, trouble and expense. I'm speaking from experience after my sister passed away at the age of 49 without having a will in place. A year later, and my family and I are still working to settle her estate and sell her home.
But possibly more important in these times of COVID-19 is the power of attorney. A power of attorney is a document that authorizes a trusted individual to act on your behalf during your lifetime, in the event you become incapacitated. In fact, there are two types of power of attorney – the general, or financial, power of attorney, and the medical power of attorney.
As you likely already guessed, a medical power of attorney is a document in which you appoint a trusted family member, partner, or friend to make medical decisions on your behalf. A living will does much the same thing, but it is only effective once you become incapacitated. A medical power of attorney, on the other hand, goes into effect immediately and has the benefit of allowing your agent to act without the delay of getting a doctor's certification that you are incapacitated. Married couples already have the authority to make decisions for their spouses under these circumstances; but if you are single or in a relationship but unmarried, it's important to have a medical power of attorney in place.
A general, or financial, power of attorney is much the same as the medical power of attorney, except it authorizes your agent to access your bank accounts, pay your bills, deal with insurance policies, and so forth. Whereas married couples are legally authorized to make medical decisions for each other, that is not the case in regard to finances. So even if you are married, if you or your spouse have accounts in your own name, or own a car titled in your own name, the other spouse cannot automatically access those accounts. So the general power of attorney is equally as important for married individuals as it is for unmarried individuals.
We are living through some extraordinary times. With Covid-19, many of us are feeling like there is so much beyond our control and we are being forced to make decisions that could potentially put us at risk of exposure. One thing we can control, though, is being as prepared as possible. If you are ready to take charge and plan for your future, we are ready to help by providing an affordable estate plan tailored to your needs. In that case, please call or email today.