There are four legal documents all adults, regardless of age, should have. They are a Last Will and Testament, a Durable Power of Attorney, a Living Will and a Health Care Proxy.
I have had these documents in place for years. However, when I reviewed them as part of the countdown to my 70th birthday, I found that they were woefully out of date. Several of my beneficiaries had died; non-profits that I wanted to support had gone out of business. Friends who were named as health care proxies were no longer in my life. The good news is that these documents can be changed multiple times in your life and are now readily available on several websites at a reasonable cost. August is Make a Will Month, so several sites have specials. I chose Legal Zoom’s estate plan bundle.
Last Will and Testament- This is where you decide how your assets and property will be divided upon your death, and who will handle that process. Generally, assets are left to a surviving spouse or children. I was the executrix of both my parents’ wills; my sister and I were the only beneficiaries. As a single, childless woman, I had to give serious thought to who I wanted my beneficiaries to be.Where would my money do the most good? Who would need it the most? Who would get my jewelry? My art work?
Durable Power of Attorney – You name someone who can step into your shoes, legally speaking, should you become incapacitated. You can authorize this person to do such things as sign checks and tax returns, enter into contracts, buy or sell real estate, deposit or withdraw funds, run a business, or anything else you do for yourself. Without a durable power of attorney, the courts would have to intervene if you are no longer capable of handling your affairs. For the decade I was my mother’s caregiver, I had her power of attorney. Two close friends have agreed to act as my agent. I hope I never need them to do so.
LivingWill-A living will, also called a directive to physicians or advance directive, is a document that lets people state their wishes for end-of-life medical care, in case they become unable to communicate their decisions. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I have no interest whatsoever in having my life prolonged by being on a respirator or a feeding tube. Often a Living Will is part of a Health Care Proxy, which is the case at Legal Zoom.
Health Care Proxy – This document puts your life in someone else’s hands. A health care proxy makes medical decisions on your behalf when you are not cable of doing so. Scary stuff! Without a health care proxy, you are at the mercy of the medical establish and the courts could intervene in your care. It is imperative that your health care proxy has a copy of your living will and agrees to follow your directives. I was my mother’s health care proxy and made endless medical decisions on her behalf. The two friends I have designated as my health care proxy fully understand and will abide by my directives
From now on, I will review these documents on a yearly basis to make sure the information is up to date and reflect my current wishes.