A couple of weeks ago, I was listening to a friend of mine who has practiced in the estate planning arena for more than 20 years. As she was explaining some of the unpleasant and terrible circumstances she has encountered, it reinforced the need for EVERYONE over the age of 18 to have three important legal documents in place given the fragility of human life. In a split second, our lives can be altered by a car wreck, stoke, heart attack, or some other serious event.
Last Will and Testament
The purpose of a Last Will and Testament is to give everyone clear instructions as to what should be done with your possessions when you pass away. Since very few of us ever know when we will be passing away, it is important to be prepared for the unexpected and eventual.
A Living Will is a document that, along with a Healthcare Power of Attorney, enables you to express now in writing what your wishes are regarding your future medical care at a time when you are unable to express them yourself. You want to relieve your family and friends of the burden of trying to guess what you would have wanted regarding types of medical care and treatment when you cannot speak or otherwise communicate. In most states, a Living Will and Healthcare Power of Attorney are separate, but connected, documents. By having these in place, you will be able to receive the type of care you want, and you won’t receive the type of care you don’t want.
Power of Attorney
The final document you should have is a Power of Attorney that comes into force and effect when you become temporarily incapacitated. A Power of Attorney allows you to appoint a trusted person and a contingent to be able to take care of things for you in the event you are unable to do so yourself. I have seen this document be used to protect people who were hospitalized for long-term illness, incarcerated, or unavailable due to overseas or international travel.
It is never fun to do the planning and thinking necessary to do these documents, but it’s even worse not to have expressed what your wishes and intentions are. It is also a terrible burden to place on others by not giving them clear information as to what you desire. I consider these documents to be essential components of your “I-love-you file.” This is a folder that contains all your pertinent information relative to life insurance, health insurance, Power of Attorney, Last Will and Testament, Living Will and Healthcare Power of Attorney. This will allow key loved ones to have access to these crucial documents in the event something terrible happens. You owe it to yourself, your family and loved ones to have these documents in place.