There are a few things that a person never wants to hear from a doctor, and one of them is, “Get your affairs in order.” Studies show that only 42% of adults in the U.S. have a will or trust in place. People often wait until they are diagnosed with a chronic illness or disease, or they experience some other type of life-changing event, before they seek estate planning advice. However, things happen all the time that we are not expecting, which makes talking to an estate planning attorney one of the most important things you can do as an adult — and you should do this sooner rather than later.
Getting Your Affairs in Order
There are several things that your attorney may recommend for getting your estate in order, but the most common documents include the following:
Living Will – This document makes your wishes clear for medical treatments that you may or may not want to receive and eases the burden of your loved ones, who would otherwise have to guess at your wishes. This document may contain a do not resuscitate (or “DNR”) order, or a do not intubate (or “DNI”), order.
Healthcare Power of Attorney – This type of power of attorney will designate a person, or more than one person, to make your healthcare decisions if you become unable to do so yourself. You will need to be certain to discuss any life-saving measures and medical treatments you do and do not want with your healthcare agents, so they understand the types of decisions they may have to make on your behalf.
Will – This document directs how you want all of your assets handled when you pass away. You will have to designate an executor of your will to handle the distribution of your assets to the intended beneficiaries. Assets may include vehicles, jewelry, furniture, real estate, and even digital assets such as social media accounts, cryptocurrency, email, and online trading accounts. A will also designates a guardian or guardians for your minor children. Without this designation, the court will determine who gets guardianship of your children after you die, without your input.
Financial Power of Attorney – This document names a person that can handle your financial matters on your behalf. You need to be very careful who you choose to manage your bank accounts and pay your bills, because there are some people who will take advantage of the situation.
Trust – This is a legal mechanism that allows you to place assets in the care of a beneficiary in order to avoid probate. Your assets can be managed while you are incapacitated, and you have control over when and whom has access to your assets. A third party, called a trustee, will manage the assets on your behalf. You can also create a testamentary trust, which is only created upon your death according to the directions in your will. People will often create a testamentary trust if they have minor children who will inherit. The trust will give the designated trustee the power to distribute your assets to your children as your will directs, which may be in stages.
Contact an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney
Don’t wait to receive your estate planning advice until you are facing a chronic or terminal illness. You never know what could happen tomorrow. Start planning for your future, and your children’s future today. Call the attorneys at Helms Bennett, P.A. today to schedule a consultation, and let us give you the peace of mind of knowing that your affairs are in order.