Everyone who knew Sam said, “He’s a great guy.” Sam was one of those people who seemed able to talk himself out of just about any situation. But when Sam suddenly passed away, his family found themselves with a mess on their hands, and no amount of talking would save them from spending an inordinate amount of time and money on untangling Sam’s legal issues or paying related fees.
The death of a loved one is traumatic for any family. Loss of companionship, leadership and income all factor into the nightmare many families are left to face at a time already fraught with overwhelming emotion.
While none of us can cheat death, we certainly can put into place safety measures that ensure our loved ones won’t suffer needlessly. These safety measures take the form of legal documentation, known as “estate planning”, that can be of tremendous help to your family if you should become very ill or pass away.
Let’s take a closer look at what Sam could have done to ease his family’s heartache.
Do you have a will? Many adults do not, assuming that wills are only for the rich. The truth is that nearly every adult has “an estate”, even if a small one, and the government is all too happy to step in and make the rules about what will happen to your property, belongings and money if you fail to create a will before you die. Estate planning isn’t only for managing circumstances after your death, or naming an executor. A type of estate planning, known as elder law, can prepare you and your family if you should become very ill and can no longer manage your own life. Most attorneys who create wills in Missouri can create your simple will very affordably.
Durable Power of Attorney
The Power of Attorney document establishes an adult you designate as your authoritative “Agent”, to make financial and legal decisions on your behalf if you should become unable to do so. Different from the executor of your will, the Power of Attorney designee may serve in an ongoing capacity, managing your finances for quite some time, so don’t make this decision lightly. For example, most people bestow Power of Attorney on their spouses, but this person may not have the skill or the good health to take on such a role.
Medical Power of Attorney
Also referred to as a “healthcare proxy”, the Medical Power of Attorney allows you to designate an adult to make medical decisions on your behalf. This person should be reasonable, intelligent, and have your best interests at heart. A person who falls apart in a crisis would not make a good choice for this role.
A Living Will
Also referred to as an “advanced healthcare directive”, the living will allows you to share your wishes for care at the end of your life. Do you want to be resuscitated if you should stop breathing? What if your heart stops beating? Do you want to be kept alive through artificial means?
These are not the types of decisions one should leave to his or her family in a time of deep crisis. Make time to have a frank discussion with your family while you are healthy enough to make these decisions together. It may be a tough conversation, but not nearly as tough on your loved ones as not having the conversation at all.
And by the way, be sure to store these important legal documents in one safe place, along with medical information, names of physicians, types of medications, and so forth. Your attorney will have access to your legal documents, but make copies to store in a place that a trusted family member can also access quickly when needed.
So many things happen in life that we can’t control. Why not control what you can? Please contact Quinn Estate & Elder Law today to schedule a no-cost consultation.