Ben Franklin said, "In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes."
And while the statement is depressing, it is true. Fortunately, there are three major legal documents that can help with those certainties. They all deal with end of life, and near end of life, types of circumstances. On today's Money Monday with David Seeger (President & CEO of Great Lakes Credit Union), he shared with us the following information.
First: a will. It is estimated by Consumer Reports that 56% of the American public have no will what-so-ever. They are in good company, as 4 past American Presidents did not have a will at the time of their death. One of them was Abraham Lincoln. Honest.
By definition, a will is a legal declaration of which a person names one or more persons to manage his/her estate and provides for the transfer of his/her property at death. A will is often referred to and titled as a "Last Will and Testament." The will part of the document deals with the disposition of real estate and the testament part refers to personal property and any other special instructions given by the "testor."
A person that dies without a will is said to be intestate and the laws of the state of their residence dictates how their estate is to be distributed. If the deceased person had minor children, the court would also determine who would receive custody of the children which may or may not have been the intention of the deceased parent.
A will remains in effect until another will is written.
Second: a living will. Also known as an advanced health care directive, a living will provides specific directions about the course of treatment that is to be followed by health care providers and caregivers.
A living will may also express wishes about the use or foregoing of food and water if supplied via tubes or medical devices. It is only used if the individual has become unable to give informed consent or refusal due to incapacity.
Currently, it is estimated that 41% of Americans have completed a living will.
Third: a durable power of attorney. Sometimes referred to as "a power of attorney with durable provisions," this allows a designated person to act and/or make decisions on behalf of the person that has become incapacitated due to deteriorating health and cannot act in his own behalf any longer. They are also empowered to make end of life decisions for the individual. A durable power of attorney ceases upon the death of the individual.
It is often recommended that people have both a living will and durable power of attorney in the event one document doesn't cover something, the other one may very well address the issue(s) at hand.
Seeger recommends you see a qualified attorney to help you prepare the aforementioned documents.
To contact David Seeger, click here.