The following are some of the personal documents that you should consider having in the event of the unexpected happening:
WHY YOU NEED A WILL
If you do not have a will and something unexpected happens, your home, money, and other property will be distributed according to a formula fixed by the law of the State in which you are domiciled. Your estate will be managed by someone who might not be the person you trusted to handle your affairs. Your minor children may be placed in the custody of someone you would not have chosen if asked.
This law is the same for everyone and does not take your special situation or wishes into consideration.
A will is a legal document. Always seek legal help in preparing or changing your will. In it you name a personal representative to administer your estate. You also specify how your estate will be divided. You also name a guardian of the person and the estate of your minor children.
A will can be changed at any time during your lifetime. It should be reviewed in the following circumstances: marriage or divorce; if you have a child; when you want to change your beneficiaries; or when you want to change your personal representative.
A Living Will details whether or not you want to prolong your life by the use of extraordinary medical treatment. In the event that you would be unable to communicate what you want, a Living Will spells out, in advance, what medical treatments you would or would not want to have performed.
For example, suppose you had a stroke and were only to be kept alive by use of a respirator with no hope of getting better. If the respirator was removed you would pass away. Without a Living Will the decision to remove a respirator would be left to your family, your doctor, and possibly the courts. Don’t you want to make the decisions about whether or not to prolong your life and under what circumstances those decisions are to be made? Your written decision may avoid unpleasant family disagreements.
HEALTH CARE POWER OF ATTORNEY
This document gives your agent, who is the person you trust, the authority to make all of your healthcare decisions. If an event should ever occur that would render you unable to make decisions for yourself, a Health Care Power of Attorney document would assure that your trusted individual could make decisions for you. Although your next of kin may be able to make most health care decisions’ for you if you could not make them yourself, a health-care power of attorney may prevent family disagreements.
DURABLE GENERAL POWER OF ATTORNEY
A Durable General Power of Attorney authorizes your agent to make financial decisions on your behalf. The Durable General Power of Attorney remains in effect should you become mentally incapacitated. The extent of the power can be as broad or as limited as you specify from paying your bills to making investments, entering into contracts, selling your home, or other legal decisions
PICKING A GUARDIAN FOR YOUR MINOR CHILDREN
A recent interesting article stated that one of the reasons that many people do not have a will is that they cannot decide who they want to be the guardian of their children in case they are no longer here. If only one of the parents would die, then the surviving parent almost always would get custody. But if both parents were to die, then someone has to take charge of the children. If you do not pick a guarding, then you have left it up to the courts. Some of the factors that should go into the decision making process are:
- HEALTH—Naming someone of your own generation may be preferable to naming your parents, if the children are infants and the parents much older.
- MONEY—This can be a big consideration if you are unable to leave enough assets to provide for the children.
- TIME—If your first choice has four children of their own, will they have the time to care for yours?
- GEOGRAPHY-–Do you want your children to have to relocate?
- VALUES-–If, for example, you want your children raised in a certain manner, does your first choice share your values?
Should you name one person as a guardian or include their spouse. What if they divorce? List all of the people you are considering, then work through the above list. Hopefully, a clear choice will emerge. Pick an alternate if you first choice is unable to serve when needed.