Without question, dying is probably the last thing that you have on your to do list. Since this is not a very pleasant subject to contemplate, many people don’t give it much thought. When they do, they often envision estate planning as an exercise in creating a last will. You record your final wishes in a will, and you have an estate plan in place.
In reality, this is a very shortsighted perspective. First of all, dying is one of the two certainties of life. As such, estate planning is a basic responsibility that comes along with being a self-supporting adult. Sticking your head in the sand will not change the basic facts of life.
Secondly, a well-constructed estate plan will go beyond the creation of a last will.
Another thing to take into consideration is the fact that a last will is not your only choice with regard to asset transfer vehicles. In many cases, a different option would be more effective, but we will get to that later.
First, let’s look at some of the documents that you should include in your estate plan, even if you use a last will to state your wishes regarding the distribution of your monetary assets.
Advance Directives for Health Care
A well-constructed estate plan will also address end-of-life issues. In many cases, people will become unable to communicate toward the end of their lives, and you should prepare for this possibility in advance. This is done through the execution of legally binding documents called advance directives for health care.
One advance directive that should be part of your estate plan is a living will. This type of will has nothing to do with financial matters.
Physicians are often capable of keeping people alive for indefinite periods of time through the utilization of artificial life-sustaining measures. These measures would include artificial hydration, artificial nutrition, and mechanical respiration.
This type of situation would pose a moral dilemma for your family members. Exactly how you would want doctors to proceed is a personal matter, and it would be difficult for anyone else to make this decision for you.
You could take the matter into your own hands through the creation of a living will. This type of will is used to state your choices regarding the use of these life-sustaining measures. If this scenario was to present itself, your own choices would be honored by physicians, and your family members would know that doctors were acting in accordance with your wishes.
Another advance directive that should be included in your estate plan is a durable power of attorney for health care. These legal devices are sometimes called health care proxies.
A living will is going to center around the matter of life-support. This is not the only health care matter that can arise. When you execute a durable power of attorney for health care, you name an agent or attorney-in-fact. The agent that you choose in the document would be empowered to make other types of medical decisions on your behalf.
Your incapacity plan could also address financial matters. You could execute a durable financial power of attorney to name an agent to handle your financial affairs in the event of your incapacitation, and this could include mental incapacitation.
Many people who are not immediately facing death become unable to handle their financial affairs due to Alzheimer’s induced dementia. In fact, the disease strikes up 45 percent of people who are at least 85.
In closing, we would like to emphasize the fact that you have multiple options when you are facilitating postmortem asset transfers. There are trusts that can be used to accomplish varying different objectives, and in many cases, a trust of some kind would be more effective than a last will.
You should certainly understand all of the possibilities and the reasons why you may want to use an alternative to a last will.
Join Us for a Free Seminar
A lot of people have estate planning in the back of their minds, but they fail to take action because they really don’t know where to begin. This is understandable, and as a response, we provide introductory opportunities to people here in Southwest Florida.
We hold estate planning seminars on an ongoing basis, and you can get to know us and learn a lot about the estate planning process if you attend one of our sessions. The seminars are free, but we ask that you register in advance. To see the schedule, click this link: Fort Myers, FL Estate Planning Seminars.