Ever been in an uncomfortable situation that you could have avoided with proper planning? This will be one of those enlightening blog pieces about future planning, especially when it comes to those unexpected end-of-life circumstances and death. The fact is, this is never a pleasant topic to discuss, but it has to be dealt with in order to alleviate the burden of stress and fear associated with such unfortunate circumstances. For most young people, advanced directives (also known as the living will) and the last will and testament barely occupy their minds. The sad truth is we cannot control near-death situations or death itself. The only thing we can do is be prepared.
So, sit tight and be attentive as we unravel what it takes to plan ahead through advanced directives and the last will.
Advanced directives are documents used in medical care in the event that one is unable to communicate or make decisions concerning their health. They are instructions for your family members and caregivers as well as the medical team treating you. Young adults should not be quick to dismiss this idea as life is full of uncertainties. Terminal illnesses, comas, and other unexpected end-of-life circumstances can occur at any moment regardless of age. So, it’s important to plan ahead and give your family members and caregivers peace of mind for those tough decisions.
When drafting an advanced directive, you must be assertive because it involves making your wishes and preferences known at the time of incapacitation. You will have to be clear on the decisions about tube feeding, resuscitation, comfort care, dialysis, mechanical ventilation, organ donation and whether your body can be donated for scientific purposes.
Important Things to Know
Power of Attorney
This is the person you appoint to take care of your affairs while you are alive but incapacitated. This person has the legal responsibility of taking care of things like paying your bills and taxes and any other financial matters you have at the time. A power of attorney can be a close family member, friend, or an attorney. At the moment of your death, their responsibility generally ceases and the executor of your last will and testament becomes responsible.
The Last Will and Testament
The last will and testament, simply known as the will, is a legal document in which a person issues instructions on what is to become of their assets in the event of their death. Having a will is an essential part of your financial planning. And it isn’t simply for the rich. This is for anyone wishing to pass on their possessions to their heirs and loved ones, however big or small that may be. Having a will prevents your wealth from going to unintended beneficiaries, protects your family especially if you have young children, helps significantly reduce or eliminate your family’s tax burdens, and will help to avoid any potential conflicts that may arise between the loved ones you leave behind. Having this very important document will make the probate process much easier to navigate and your family will be glad you had everything in order as they cope with your loss.
Issues pertaining to the possession and distribution of assets when one dies are complicated, but a will makes it clear how you would like your estate divided. Should one meet their untimely death without having drafted a will, the state’s intestacy laws guide the property distribution process. This was the case for music icons Aretha Franklin and Prince. These celebrities died without wills, making their assets open to people who may not have been the intended recipients. The probate process in settling Franklin’s and Prince’s assets distribution was full of chaos as people came out claiming to be entitled to their wealth. Because they failed to have a last will in place, they ultimately did not have a say so in how their assets were distributed. Avoid such cases by having a will.
Important things to Know
This is the person you appoint to take care of your possessions after you die. This person is given the legal responsibility to take care of all of your financial obligations, including paying any taxes or debt and making sure the assets are distributed according to your wishes once you are gone.
If you have a child/children under the age of 18, it is important you name a legal guardian or guardians for your child/children in your will in the event of your death. If you do not have a legal guardian named in your will before you pass away, the court will choose one for you and it may not be a grandparent, an aunt, or an uncle. It is important to name each child in your will and the name of the guardian(s) of each. Who raises your children if you and your spouse pass away is a very important decision and do not assume your wishes will be met unless you have it clearly written in this legal document.
Updating Your Will
You can update your will as often as you would like. Though it will cost you a fee to do so, it is vital that you keep your will current. Should any of your wishes change or if you undergo any life changes, you should update your will immediately.
How to Go About It
So, now that we understand what advanced directives and last will are and why they are important, it is crucial to know how to go about drafting these documents. State laws govern the drafting of these documents and it is important to note they vary from state to state. In filing advanced directives and last will forms, one can call the office of an estate planning attorney in their area or make due with online resources like those found on Legal Zoom, Rocket Lawyer, Legacy Writer and Willing. Though most individuals are concerned with costs of drafting these documents, not having a will is likely to cost you much more in the long run.
For the advanced directives, it is not a must to involve a lawyer as the forms can be obtained from the local hospitals, state’s medical association, National Hospice and Palliative Care organization and regular physician’s offices. A copy of the advanced directive and the last will should be given to family members, health care agents, lawyers, and doctors. It is advisable to also carry one when traveling.
That is all there is to know about the advanced directive and the last will. The importance of these documents is not just to have your wishes and preferences known and adhered to, they will also save you time and money. This is part of the legacy you leave behind. Make sure that all of your years of hard work will not be in vain. No one should control what happens with your estate but you. Be proactive in your financial planning. Be wise and plan ahead by putting an advanced directive and a last will in place.