Wills and Probate
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Who Needs A Will?
Who Needs A Will?
Are you an adult age 18 or older? Do you have kids? Do you own a home? Do you own assets such as a bank account, retirement account, or life insurance policy? Are you married or in a long-term committed relationship?
While certain factors may make having a will an even higher priority, the answer to who needs a will is virtually every person. Age does not matter. Level of wealth and income does not matter. Family status does not matter. It is prudent to prepare at least a simple form-driven will for every adult.
No One Expects His or Her Life to End Prematurely or Abruptly
Life-threatening, serious, critical, or fatal accidents can happen at any time. No one plans a car accident, collision with a drunk driver, workplace accident, stroke, heart attack, or sudden medical emergency. Yet, we know from media, news, and hearing the buzz in our communities that these things do occur.
You don't want to be stuck in one of these distressing and unfortunate situations without the benefit of some relatively easily created estate-planning tools. A little investment of time upfront before such a situation arises will save you and your surviving family members a lot of grief, stress, turmoil, time, effort, and even funds.
Considerations When Undertaking Estate Planning
- Communication about your medical condition. If you are stuck in emergency surgery or otherwise incapacitated and unable to make and/or communicate your own medical decisions, whom do you want your health care provider to update about your medical condition? Health care privacy laws are strict, and some family members, distant relatives, friends, neighbors, or companions do not qualify to fulfill this role under the law without intervention and an alternative designation on your behalf. You especially do not want a party to be charged with making medical decisions on your behalf without the benefit of being provided information about your condition and medical history.
- Critical decisions about your health and other care. If you are incapacitated or otherwise incompetent to make and/or communicate decisions about your medical and other types of care, what party or person do you want to make those decisions on your behalf? Whom do you entrust with that critical level of decision-making?
What Type of Will Suffices?
Estate-planning documents need not be complex to be adequate and sufficient to avoid an intestate succession situation (dying without a will and falling subject to the state's succession laws). Chances are that you and your surviving family members or significant others will not prefer the intestate laws of your state's jurisdiction. Rarely are those laws in keeping with the preferences that most individuals would want to make for their estate, property, and care. The process also can be more costly and time-consuming than it needs to be without a will and simple estate-planning documents.
A simple form-driven will helps to determine how a decedent's property will be distributed at the time of his or her death. Other estate-planning documents, such as a power of attorney, living will, and/or authorization permit doctors and other health care providers to share and provide private health care and medical information about you with other parties, such as your family members or significant others. Every adult should prepare, or have prepared by an attorney, at least three estate-planning documents:
- Durable power of attorney, which serves to nominate someone to manage and administer your assets if you become incapacitated or incompetent
- Advance health care directive that outlines instructions for your medical care if you become incapacitated or incompetent.