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4 Core Estate Planning Documents Every New York Resident Must Have for Peace of Mind
“Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get.” ~Forrest Gump.
Not everyone is clear as mind as Forrest Gump. Most of us have a sense of guilt. Your guilt can stem from the failure to place your affairs in order. Tragedy, pain and suffering happen all the time to people, just like us. We hate to think about death and incapacity, so we put off taking the proper steps that will insure that our loved ones are taken care of even if we are not around. Putting off that which you know is essential, can cause guilty feelings.
Do yourself a favor and end the procrastination; and end it Now! Like Forrest Gump points out, we never know what life will bring.
- What if you pass away leaving behind minor children?
- Who will care for them?
- Who will make sure that they receive the best care and have the money they need for education and health?
- What if you are incapacitated and need someone else to make health and financial related decisions for you?
- How will you make sure that your assets are given to the right beneficiaries at the right time?
Are you prepared, or will your inaction lay the burden on someone the State chooses?
1 : DURABLE POWER of ATTORNEY
The first document that every New Yorker, age 18 to 118, would be foolish not to have is the Durable Power of Attorney. It is a document that allows you to grant another person the authority to make legal decisions and transactions on his behalf. The person receiving the power, known as an agent, has that power until you either pass away or you take the power away from your agent. Since the power is “durable” your agent can act on your behalf, even if you become unable to make your own decisions. A very handy tool if you become inflicted with Alzheimer’s disease. You can control how broad or narrow a Power of Attorney will be by limiting or expanding the powers granted to your agent. Since incapacity can befall anyone at any time, every adult should have a Durable Power of Attorney.
2: HEALTH CARE PROXY
First thing you must know is that in the event you ever become incapacitated to the extent that you cannot inform your doctors how you wish to be treated, such as refusing or accepting life support, your spouse, family and close friends do not have legal authority in New York to make those decisions for you? A Health Care Proxy is a document which allows you to appoint someone to make health care decisions in the event you cannot. If there is no Health Care Proxy in place, a person must get consent from the courts to make medical decisions on your behalf. The court process can be time consuming and costly.
3: LIVING WILL
Living Will is a document which is an expression of your wishes on how you want to be medically treated in the event you cannot make your own medical decisions. This can include the duration of treatment you would want to receive if ill and unable to communicate such desires at the time of treatment. The Living Will does not designate an agent, but is used to help guide the person you choose in your Health Care Proxy. It is essentially a detailed set of “instructions” regarding your wishes about end-of-life decisions, such as artificial nutrition, hydration and respiration.
4: LAST WILL and TESTAMENT
A flexible document that allows you to tell the world how you wish to dispose of your property after your death. You can change the terms of your Will at anytime during your life. It is a good idea to review your will periodically because your needs at age 25 with a new family may be very different when you reach age 45 and then again at age 75. Some of the situations where a Will can be helpful is when you want to pick who will take care of your children. It can document who receives your assets and at what age they receive them. For example, you can plan to have half of the assets released at age 21 and the remaining half at age 32 or any other distribution combination you can imagine. If you pass away without a will, New York State will elect a person who will be the guardians of your children and it will release the funds to them upon the age of 18.
Life is ever changing. Divorce happens. Children may stray from family values and you may become so wealthy that you want something in your Will to help avoid or minimize New York and Federal estate tax. A Will is the tool to make sure that these events are addressed after you pass away.
Estate planning is not a topic most people wish to face. It involves facing your own mortality. Taking the simple step of having these documents in place will bring peace of mind, because if the unexpected happens, you will be prepared.
To get your estate planning affairs in order, act today and contact your local estate planning attorney or if you have any questions feel free to contact me. If you let my office know that you read this article, we will give you a complimentary consultation so that you can take the first steps in getting prepared.