While none of us likes to think about our own death, estate planning is something we all must do. To properly plan, an estate plan should include not only the preparation of a Last Will and Testament, but also a Power of Attorney, Living Will, Healthcare Proxy, and if necessary, a Trust or more sophisticated planning documents. There are many benefits to having a comprehensive estate plan such as, you get to determine what decisions can be made on your behalf and control how your property is distributed after your death
Why Should I Create a Last Will and Testament?
When you die without a will, the laws of intestacy govern who receives your assets and you lose the advantage of deciding who gets what part of your estate assets. For example, in New York if a spouse and children survive you without a will, the spouse will receive the first $50,000 plus half of the remainder of your assets. The children will divide the remaining half. However, you may want to make a charitable donation of part of your assets or put money in trust for your children. Not having a will may also mean that your minor children might be under the control of a court-appointed guardian and not the person you want.
Also, without a will, you don’t have the option of naming an executor, trustee, or other beneficiaries. Creating a will avoids problems that may arise from intestacy laws. You should create a will before it’s too late.
What is a Power of Attorney?
A Power of Attorney is a legal document that allows you (called the principal) to appoint someone else (called an agent) to step in and make certain decisions and transactions on your behalf, if you are unable to do so. You determine what decisions can be made on your behalf. Without an effective Power of Attorney, your family may be forced to commence a guardianship proceeding and ask a court to appoint someone on your behalf, in the event you become incapacitated. A guardianship proceeding is time consuming and costly. However, having a power of attorney, will save you and your family the time and expense in the event you are unavailable or unable to act.
What is a Living Will?
The primary purpose of a Living Will is for you to set forth your own wishes as to what medical procedures or treatment you do or do not want in the event you are incapable of communicating your own wishes or decisions due to a terminal illness. In your Living Will, you can also specify how your remains should be handled. A Living Will can serve an important role to provide clear evidence of your wishes and provide you with a peace of mind that comes with knowing that under unfortunate circumstances your family will not be needlessly burdened.
What is a Health Care Proxy?
A Health Care Proxy is a legal document, which appoints someone (called an agent) to make health care decisions for you (called the principal) in the event you become incapacitated. This power can be used not only when you are in a life threatening condition, but also when you are incapable of making a health care decision. A proper Health Care Proxy allows you to maintain control over your future in terms of medical treatment by placing important decisions in the hands of the agent. The effect is similar to the Power of Attorney, in that the Health Care Proxy affords you security and peace of mind.
In addition to helping you create your estate plan, our firm also handles the probate and administration of estates. If you or someone you know are ready to create your estate plan or require representation in a probate or administration proceeding, please contact our firm.