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Do you have a plan in place to help your loved ones if the worst were to occur? For most people, the answer is no. Having a plan or a list of everything you own and owe is key when you pass away. In this article, I am going to lay out what the essential documents are, briefly what they do, and why you need them.
First is a Last Will and Testament, also call a “Will” in this article. This is the document where you will lay out all of your assets that you have and describe who you want them to go to. Not every little thing will be listed but the major things or particular things that you want to go to specific people will be. In your Will, you will pick a person to be the Executor of your estate. An Executor is the person that you believe will carry out your wishes as laid out in your Will.
Next is a Statutory Durable Power of Attorney. This document names a person, could be the same person that is the Executor of your Estate, that will handle all of your affairs except medical decisions, in the event that you cannot but are still alive. This person would be able to pay your bills, sign documents on your behalf, and stand in your place as if it were you for all legal purposes. The easiest way to think about this document is to use the example of a person with dementia. That person is still alive and living, however, at some point a doctor might determine that they can no long make decisions for themselves. If that happens and the person with dementia has a statutory durable power of attorney, the person named in that document will be able to then act on behalf of the person as if it were the person doing it themselves.
There is also a Medical Durable Power of Attorney. This is the document that your agent, person of your choosing, will need to be able to make a medical decision for you if you cannot make them on your own. There are numerous reasons that this can go into effect. For example, if you are diagnosed with dementia and can no longer make medical decisions, your agent will be able to communicate with your doctor and make the medical decisions needed as if it were you making them.
A good one to have is a HIPPA authorization, although some people believe it is not needed. This document give permission for the people listed to be have access to your doctor or the hospital in the event of an emergency or your incapacitation. For example, if you are in a car accident and your parent wants to know how you are doing in the hospital, but you cannot give them permission yourself, if they are listed on the HIPPA authorization, a doctor would be able to give your parent an update.
Depending on if you have a child or children, you will need a Guardian of Minor Children. This is where you will name a person or persons to take care of your child/children in the event of an emergency or your sudden passing. It gives the person or persons named right to act as the legal guardian and make legal decision as if they were the biological parent of the child/children.
There is also a Directive to Physicians, which can be a tough decision and one that a lot of people don’t like to discuss. This is a document that informs the doctor or hospital of your decision as to whether you would like to be kept artificially alive if you were to take a downfall. There are two sections in this document. One talks about what you would like to be done if you are diagnosed with a terminal disease and the other is what you would like to be done in the event of a life event that incapacitates you. You don’t have to make the same choice for both. In the document, you can also put limits on certain things or medications to be done.
Lastly is a general list of assets that are not included in your Will along with your debts. This is helpful because not all assets have to be listed in the Will. For example, if you have a life Insurance policy, that is a separate asset that you Will does not control. Whomever you have listed as your beneficiary on your life insurance policy through the company that holds it, is the person that will receive the benefit. It does not matter if you have a different person listed in your Will because life insurance falls under the laws that govern contracts and not the laws that govern your estate once deceased.
To receive guidance and help in making these decisions, please contact Gomez Law at 713.980.9012.