In last week’s blog, we talked about the importance of engaged couples having at least three estate and legal documents: will, durable power of attorney, and medical power of attorney. Yet, it’s not just engaged couples that need these documents.
Everyone older than 18 needs these documents. The question arises: why? The basic reasons are listed below. For more information and for preparation of these documents, please seek legal counsel.
This document tells who should receive your property after your death. Without this document, state laws will determine who receives your property. If you want someone other than your close relatives to receive any of your possessions, you need a will.
Here’s an example: you have a significant other who has lived with you in your home for many years. Your intention is for your significant other to own the home after your death. Without a will stating your wishes, the home will go to your closest relative, probably your parents or siblings. They may or may not give the home to your significant other.
The will document also states who you wish to be executor of your estate. In other words, who will take care of your assets, pay your final bills, and distribute your assets according to your wishes.
Medical Power of Attorney
This document tells who you have designated to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to communicate those wishes. Let’s say you are in a car accident and you are unconscious. When you arrive at the hospital, a medical decision has to be made regarding your treatment. Without this document, no one has the authority to make the decision; the doctors will decide.
Parents often assume they can still make medical decisions for their child at college. Legally, once the child turns 18, the parent can no longer make those decisions unless the child has a medical power of attorney giving the parent the authority.
Durable Power of Attorney
This document controls who can take care of your financial affairs if you are incapacitated. Continuing on with the car accident scenario, if you have bills that need to be paid or other financial decisions to be made and you don’t have a durable power of attorney, no one can touch your bank or other financial accounts without a court order. Getting a court order takes time and your bills could become delinquent.
Thinking about these issues isn’t the most pleasant activity but failing to have at least these three documents could be disastrous. Protect yourself, your assets, and your family—talk to an attorney and get these documents prepared.
Judith Ackland has more than 26 years of experience in accountancy and financial planning, including seventeen years as a CFO of a diverse business. She started Crystal Financial in 2010 to help a wide array of individuals, families, and business owners better understand their finances and how good financial management could help them achieve their goals. Judith has an MA in Professional Accountancy from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln as well as a Certified Public Accountant Certificate and a Certified Financial Planner designation.