Many people do not like to plan for the possibility of their own death or incapacity. However, it is something that everyone should do, especially when they have young children. You have to ask yourself the following questions: “Who is going to take care of my children when I am unable to do so?”, “Who is going to handle my pending matters and take care of my assets when I no longer can?”, “Who is going to be responsible for paying the bills when I cannot pay them?”, and, “To whom am I going to leave my house, my money, and my assets when I die?” To plan for the future, everyone should have three documents – – a Will, a Power of Attorney for Health Care, and a Power of Attorney for Property.
The Will. The Will is a very important document because it declares your wishes at your death. Every state has laws that trump the provisions of a
will in certain situations. For example, in the state of Illinois, if a person is married, the husband or wife of that person, has the right to one-third (1/3) of the assets (or the money) of the husband or wife who has died. This is why you should speak to an attorney about your specific situation so that your wishes can be carried out. In a will, you are also able to name the person you would like to care for your children if you should die when your children are young. Also in a will, you can name the executor, who is the person who will be responsible for collecting all your assets and distributing your assets to your heirs after your death. Besides the will, there is also a way for you to place all of your assets in a Trust during your life so that when you die, the possession of your assets will automatically pass over to the persons you have named as beneficiaries in the Trust, whether they be your children, family members, or friends, all without having to wait for the conclusion of any court proceedings. With a Trust, you can also leave your assets, such as your house, to your underage children. To do so, you would name a Trustee or representative who would then dedicate him or herself to taking care of your house until your children become of legal age. There are many things that can be done with a Will and with a Trust.
Power of Attorney for Health Care. A Power of Attorney for Health Care is used to name the person you want to be responsible for making medical decisions on your behalf in the event you are incapable of doing so yourself; for example, at the hospital, with a doctor or nurse, or, in an ambulance. When a person is ill or incapacitated, and cannot make decisions with regard to their medical treatment, normally the hospital, or the doctor, is going to demand that the family of that person ask the court to name a member of the family as guardian to make the medical decisions for that person. The legal process to ask the court to name a guardian can be costly and can take several weeks or even months. Having a Power of Attorney for Health Care eliminates having to petition the court because you have already named the person who you would like to make those decisions for you in such a situation.
Power of Attorney for Property. A Power of Attorney for Property is also very important; because you can name the person (who will become your agent) that you would like to be responsible for making financial decisions on your behalf when you die. This person should be someone that you trust because he or she will be your agent and will have the power to buy or sell your assets, write checks, and make your monthly payments when you are unable to do so. If you become ill and are unable to handle your matters, your agent will have the power to make those decisions on your behalf. If you do not have a Power of Attorney for Property, normally your family will have to petition the court to name a guardian of your estate who can take care of your matters. Likewise, the procedure through the court can be costly and can be lengthy. If you have a Power of Attorney, your family will not have to petition the court and you will save a lot of money.
Even though we do not like to talk about death and the possibility of becoming ill, it is important to plan for the future. It is recommended that everyone have three documents – – a Will, a Power of Attorney for Health Care, and a Power of Attorney for Property. The Will speaks your wishes at your death, and the Powers of Attorney allow you to name one or more agents to act on your behalf and make decisions for you while you are alive in the event you are unable to act. Besides making sure you have those three documents, you should also talk to your family to explain to them what you would like to happen if and when you are unable to communicate with them. It is a good idea to leave your family a list of all of your real estate property, your personal assets, your bank accounts, and your debts, so that your family can be prepared to take care of your matters if it ever becomes necessary.
This article is intended to contain general information, and does not constitute legal advice. Talk to an attorney for specific advice in your particular situation.