July 2nd, 2019
It’s a given in life that we should prepare ahead of time for death. And yet it’s estimated that only 4 in 10 American adults actually have a will or living trust. Happily, 81 percent of those 72 or older do, in fact, have estate-planning documents. But that still leaves nearly 20 percent of our elderly population without wills and related documents.
Why do so many people fail to tackle or complete estate planning? The top two reasons of the people surveyed: They “hadn’t gotten around to it” (47 percent), and they “don’t have enough assets to leave to anyone” (29 percent). Excuses aside, it’s advised that everyone make the time to get their end-of-life documents in order, not only for their own peace of mind, but also for their children and caregivers.
Financially-strapped and don’t think you can afford extravagant attorney’s fees? If there’s little likelihood that your will could be contested, you may want to consider some of the do-it-yourself services available on line, which use simple step-by-step questions to help you create the needed document(s).
Your loved ones have spent their entire lives working hard to earn what they have – their home, a car, a bank account – but if they don’t express how their estate, property, possessions and money are distributed after their death, the state will get to decide. Without a Last Will and Testament, not only will dying wishes be denied, but precious heirlooms could be sold at auctions, and thus lost by the family forever.
*Appoint an Executor – this is the person who will administer the estate, so make sure it’s someone who the family trusts to handle financial matters prudently.
*Appoint an Alternative Executor – the 2nd in command, so to speak, should the primary Executor be unable or unwilling to act. Again, it should be someone trustworthy.
*List All Assets – be sure to carefully make a list of all property, possessions, and investments, avoiding discrepancies, ambiguities or errors.
*List Beneficiaries – because you’ll want to ensure that the property they’re leaving behind gets left to the correct people, and divided properly.
*Include ‘End-of-Life’ Provisions – aka a Living Will, which provides instructions on what kind of ‘end-of-life’ treatments or situations a person is willing to endure.
While most people seem to be more proactive about their health care power of attorney, which grants someone legal authority to make medical decisions when incapacitation occurs, it’s still easy to forget creating one. Whereas a will is only about dividing up your property when you’re not around, a health care power of attorney covers important life decisions before you die.
The health care power of attorney (or proxy) gives the agent certain powers including opting on surgery, and terminating life support or an artificial feeding apparatus. Although these forms are widely available online it is sometimes best to hire a legal advocate familiar with the law to ensure that a loved one’s wishes are fully met.
When creating a health care power of attorney, always remember these important things: