Hello and welcome to our Office Journal. Thank you for taking the time to check in with us.
The purpose of this post is to explain in simple terms what we mean when we talk about your “estate plan.” Your estate plan is the set of legal documents we put into place in anticipation of the eventual or sudden decline in our clients’ health. These documents consist of at least the following: a healthcare directive, a durable, financial power of attorney, and your Last Will and Testament.
The healthcare directive is a legal form that combines a living will with a healthcare power of attorney. The Georgia legislature combined the latter two forms in 2007 to make life easier for doctors and patients. The healthcare directive has two purposes: it enables you to name several people who will have legal authority to make and communicate healthcare decisions on your behalf when you are unable to do so, and it also allows you to preemptively decide how you want to be treated if you have an incurable illness and are unable to communicate.
The healthcare directive is readily available online, and you can fill it out yourself at home. As long as your signature at the end is attested by two disinterested witnesses, the document will be effective. However, we include this form as part of your estate plan because, in our opinion, the decisions you make about your healthcare are more important than your possessions, and therefore more important than the other documents we draft for you. Also, the form is very confusingly worded, and it helps to go through it with us because we can help explain it, having reviewed it hundreds of times.
Durable Financial Power of Attorney
The durable financial power of attorney enables you to delegate access to your finances to someone you trust. It is a highly customizable form and can give as much or as little access to your accounts as you decide. However, its main purpose is to permit your loved ones to pay the bills you pay when you are unable to do so. This document may be supplemented or replaced by a living trust, which we often recommend.
Last Will and Testament
Your Last Will and Testament passes on your responsibilities and your property after you die. Most people understand that Wills deal with property, but not as many realize the advantages of using a Will to pass along responsibilities.
For example, if you have a minor child or you are a caretaker for a child with a disability, you can use a Will to suggest a guardian for that child, and to put a trustee in place to make sure that someone you trust is given legal custody, and that your hard-earned money is used only for purposes you choose. We will discuss these options in more detail later.
None of us likes to ponder the reality that one day, we will be unable to take responsibility for anything. But that day is coming, and it is best to have our houses in order when it arrives.