In these uncertain times, it is important for all of us to get our affairs in order. We want to be sure that if we become incapacitated, someone can make decisions for us, and we all want to see that our assets are distributed upon our deaths as we wish.
Four documents are essential. Each person should have a will, a durable power of attorney, a health care power of attorney and beneficiary designations for retirement accounts and life insurance policies.
A will determines how property and assets will be distributed upon death. A will also may nominate an executor or executrix to administer the estate. Without a will, assets are distributed according to the law of intestate succession, which may not be what we want.
A durable power of attorney appoints someone to act for you and to make property decisions if you are unable to do so. A power of attorney can be effective immediately or upon incapacity, which can be defined as requiring the written statement of a licensed physician. This may avoid the need for appointment of a guardian of the estate.
A health care power of attorney appoints someone with authority to make health care decisions if you are incapacitated. The definition of incapacity can include the requirement for a written statement of a licensed physician. A health care power of attorney can include a living will, which provides that if you have an incurable or irreversible condition that will cause death within a relatively short time and you are unable to make health care decisions, your health care provider is to withdraw or withhold treatment that otherwise might be life-sustaining but which under the circumstances would only prolong the process of dying.
Life insurance policies and retirement accounts, such as IRAs, 401k accounts and 403b accounts, require beneficiary designations which will assure that the assets are distributed as you direct. In the case of retirement accounts, there may be tax consequences, such as the ability of a spouse to “roll over” the account and to continue the tax deferment.
While in-person consultations are not possible now, telephone, text, email, FaceTime and Zoom meetings allow attorneys and clients to confer. Documents can be prepared and sent by email. Please let us know how we can be of service.