Estate planning can be a sensitive and even a scary subject. No one wants to think about sickness and death, but it’s necessary and not as complicated as it sounds. Here are five tips on how you and your loved ones can be prepared and protected now and in the future:
1. Create a Will. A Will is a legal document that allows you to distribute your property according to your wishes. In your Will, you can appoint a person to make sure your wishes are followed. A Will only becomes effective upon your death.
2. Select a Power of Attorney. There are several different types of Power of Attorney. The two most common are a Financial Power of Attorney and a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. The Financial Power of Attorney grants someone the power to make decisions about financial and business matters. It will allow someone to pay your bills and take care of your banking and business affairs. A Power of Attorney can prevent disputes and unwanted situations from occurring. These documents have maximum built-in flexibility. Choosing an agent for your Power of Attorney should be done with careful consideration and this agent should be trustworthy and capable of taking care of your business.
3. Select a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care grants someone permission to make certain decisions about your health care if you are not able to do so. It also allows physicians to discuss your health condition with the person you selected as your agent.
4. Select a Guardian. You can designate in your Will who you want to be your children’s guardian in the case that the other parent is no longer alive, not responsible or his/her whereabouts are unknown. As a parent, the most important joy you will ever undertake is raising your children. Don’t leave the decision of your children’s wellbeing in the hands of a judge – select someone who is best suited to raise, nurture, and support your children in your absence.
5. Create a Living Will. Not to be confused with a Will, a Living Will gives instructions to a physician about whether life support systems should be sustained or withdrawn in the event that a person is terminally ill or in a persistent vegetative state and unable to speak. This document also can also outline a person’s desired treatment to sustain his or her life. A Living Will removes the burden and/or guilt from your loved one in making this critical decision about life sustaining or death delaying treatment.
Note: In Georgia the Living Will provisions are incorporated within the Georgia Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. However, in other states this may be a document separate and apart from a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care.