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Planning for the end of your life is daunting. Writing a will and determining Power of Attorney (POA) isn’t the most pleasant of tasks. After all, by doing so you’re not only acknowledging the end of life, but actively planning for it. That might explain why so many adults avoid this cornerstone of estate planning. According to an AARP survey, 2 out of 5 Americans over the age of 45 don’t have a will and 81 percent of those age 72 or older and 58 percent of boomers (ages 53-71) do, in fact, have established POA’s.
A will is simply a legal document in which you, the testator, declare who will manage your estate after you die. Your estate can consist of big, expensive things such as a vacation home but also small items that might hold sentimental value such as photographs. The person named in the will to manage your estate is called the executor because he or she executes your stated wishes.
A will can also serve to declare who you wish to become the guardian for any minor children or dependents, and who you want to receive specific items that you own — Aunt Sally gets the silver, Cousin Billy the bone china, and so on. Someone designated to receive any of your property is called a “beneficiary.”
No, you aren’t required to hire a lawyer to prepare your will, though an experienced lawyer can provide useful advice on estate-planning strategies such as living trusts. But as long as your will meets the legal requirements of your state, it’s valid whether a lawyer drafted it, or you wrote it yourself on the back of a napkin.
You can name your spouse, an adult child, or another trusted friend or relative as your executor. If your affairs are complicated, it might make more sense to name an attorney or someone with legal and financial expertise. You can also name joint executors, such as your spouse or partner and your attorney.
If you wish to leave certain personal property to certain heirs, indicate as much in your will. In addition, you can create a separate document called a letter of instruction that you should keep with your will. You can also include specifics about any number of things that will help your executor settle your estate including account numbers, passwords and even burial instructions.
It’s possible that your will may never need to be updated — or you may choose to update it regularly. The decision is yours. Remember, the only version of your will that matters is the most current valid one in existence at the time of your death.
A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document giving one person (the agent or attorney-in-fact) the power to act for another person (the principal). The agent can have broad legal authority or limited authority to make legal decisions about the principal’s property, finances or medical care. The power of attorney is frequently used in the event of a principal’s illness or disability, or when the principal can’t be present to sign necessary legal documents for financial transactions.
A power of attorney can end for a number of reasons, such as when the principal dies, the principal revokes it, a court invalidates it, the principal divorces their spouse, who happens to be the agent, or the agent can no longer carry out the outlined responsibilities.
Conventional POAs lapse when the creator becomes incapacitated, but a “durable POA” remains in force to enable the agent to manage the creator’s affairs, and a “springing POA” comes into effect only if and when the creator of the POA becomes incapacitated. A medical or healthcare POA enables an agent to make medical decisions on behalf of an incapacitated person.
Like the property deed for your house or car, a POA grants immense ownership authority and responsibility. It is literally a matter of life and death in the case of a medical POA. And you could find yourself facing financial privation or bankruptcy if you end up with a mishandled or abused durable POA. Therefore, you should choose your agent with the greatest of care to ensure your wishes are carried out to the greatest extent possible.
Parents often are reluctant to give others power over their affairs. Moreover, a POA applies to individuals, not couples, so the challenge is to convince each parent to create a POA. If you have a parent who is reluctant to do so, try the following ideas to persuade them.
Warn of the dangers of not having POAs. If a parent becomes incapacitated and unable to manage his or her own affairs without a POA in place that enables a named agent to step in and do so, then nobody may have the legal right to do so.
It then will be necessary to go to court to seek to be named as a conservator or guardian for the parent, a course that may prove costly and slow—and could be contested, causing family conflicts.
A person must be mentally competent to create a power of attorney. Once a parent loses the capability to manage his or her own affairs it is too late, and court proceedings likely will be necessary.
At Spring Hills, we understand the intricacies and emotions that come with planning for the end of a loved one’s life. Our care teams work to support you and connect you and your loved ones with professionals in these matters to ensure that when the inevitable happens, all parties are prepared. The most difficult part in determining end of life proceedings is generally the initial conversation. Your loved one might be resistant to talk about the end for many reasons, generally it’s fear. Fearing the end and fear of disappointing family in determining heirs, roles and final wishes.
Although it is a difficult task, writing a will and determining POA are crucial to establish when loved ones are of sound mind and body. This allows peace of mind for the individual and their family and friends in the end.
Our team members are happy to assist by connecting you with professionals that can help in any and all end-of-life proceedings to advise in best practices and make all wishes known. In doing so, we can ensure that all of our residents and families can Live Happy.