Before an emergency strikes, certain legal documents should be prepared so children or other trusted family members will be able to help loved ones. Explain to your children that this simply means your wishes will be known. It’s necessary to do this while you’re healthy and well, or at least able to articulate your wishes. That means speaking with an estate planning attorney to have the documents created and also making sure family members know where important papers are located. I may also mean holding a Family Care Meeting so parents can explain their wishes and estate planning now to help children and loved ones understand their roles and responsibilities before they need to exercise them.
Las Cruces Sun-News published an article about this topic, “Getting affairs in order,” that suggests if you have siblings or other relatives, you need to think about creating an estate plan addressing your health care concerns. While working with your estate planning and elder law attorney, consider who shares your views and values about life and medical decisions. You should also name both a health care proxy and an alternate. It’s important to have a detailed estate plan so you can choose the amount of authority the proxy will have over your medical care and the types of decisions he or she can make. Make sure the proxy and alternate are comfortable with this responsibility. You must then complete the legal forms detailing your wishes with your attorney, preferably as part of the estate planning process. Start by talking with your doctor and consulting with an elder law attorney.
Failing to plan in advance may result in your children’s inability to gain access to the information they need or to act on your behalf. You can avoid time-consuming and costly court fights by working with your children and estate planning/elder law attorney to prepare certain documents as part of your plan.
A durable power of attorney for health care (or health care proxy) allows you to designate someone to make health care decisions for you. On the other hand, a durable power of attorney for finances lets the person you designate manage your financial affairs. A HIPAA release says your designated agent is allowed access to your health records and medical staff.
But all that planning could be in vain if you don’t outline your planning and wishes now. At Family Estate Planning Law Group, we strongly encourage our clients to hold a Family Care Meeting to do just that. This meeting allows clients to outline their wishes, as well as communicate the roles and responsibilities of those you’ve named in your plan.
Another important document is a revocable living trust. This allows you to retain control over your estate while making transfers of your assets to beneficiaries simply and effectively. You should align the title of all your assets with the trust and any beneficiary designations with who should receive that asset. During your lifetime, you act as trustee (manager) of your own living trust. A revocable living trust allows your estate to avoid the probate process at the time of your death, making things easier on your family.
Remember, it’s not just about documents. You’re creating an estate plan not just to get your affairs in order, but to make things easier on your family. You want to take care of your loved ones and ensure you don’t place too much of a burden on them should you become incapacitated or when you pass away. An experienced estate planning and elder law attorney—especially one who works with clients on an ongoing basis to align assets with the plan and track changes in assets, family situation or the law—can help you create a plan that truly takes care of your family.
For more information on this and other estate planning and elder law topics, explore our website and contact us to schedule your consultation today!
Reference: Las Cruces Sun-News (January 1, 2017) “Getting affairs in order”