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The importance of making end of life preparations cannot be stressed enough. Many people put off making these plans thinking there is always time. The sad reality is that none of us are guaranteed time. Others may be bothered by the thought of death itself and allow this to paralyze them when it comes to making plans and getting their affairs in order for the end of life. However, most of these same people have wishes and thoughts about where and to whom their assets are distributed. Many of them also have ideas about what they do and do not wish to have happen when their life ends. Lack of preparation and planning means that these wishes likely will not be honored. In addition, it causes additional strain and stress on the people who are left to sort out the affairs.
If you or your elderly loved one have not made end of life preparations, make time to do so as quickly as possible. Our firm can help guide you and can make sure the proper documents are in place to carry out your wishes regarding your health, the care that you want (or don’t want) to receive, and who should receive your money and possessions.
Below are five key documents that you may wish to consider:
Last Will and Testament, or simply Will
A will allows you to specify where your money and possessions should go upon your passing by designating specific beneficiaries and assigning their respective shares. It also allows you to choose an executor of the estate. The executor will take care of managing the estate, paying debts, and distributing property as specified. Finally, those who may have beneficiaries who are minors should use this opportunity to designate legal guardians. A will only takes effect upon your death.
Living Trust (meaning, created during Trust maker’s lifetime)
A living trust does everything a will can do, but because it is effective during your lifetime, it also allows you to choose someone who will manage your assets if you become incapacitated. In addition, a living trust provides privacy, as it is not subject to court proceedings that become open to the public like a will is. There are numerous other advantages to a living trust that can be explored with the help of a knowledgeable attorney.
A living will specifies your wishes for end-of-life medical care. For example, you can specify whether or not you want to be kept alive by artificial means if you are in a terminal state. Your can also designate if you would want to be buried or cremated, and if you would like to make any organ donations.
Health Care Power of Attorney (in New York, a Health Care Proxy)
This document specifies a health care agent who will make health care decisions for you, in the event you aren’t able to make decisions yourself.
Power of Attorney
Lastly, a power of attorney should be in the plan as well to assist with strictly financial and an array of various non-medical matters. A power of attorney names an agent to handle your finances in the event you are no longer able to while alive (dementia, Alzheimer’s, accident, etc.). An agent can open and close bank accounts, write checks, and sell property if you choose to allow them the authority to do so.
Having an estate plan is necessary for you to have a say in what happens if you become sick and cannot make decisions for yourself, and to determine what happens with your money and your belongings after death. An estate plan also helps those who are left to deal with the estate to do so in a more simple and straightforward manner.
Contact our office at 212-920-6371 to discuss your estate planning needs and for additional information. We have locations in Midtown Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Northern New Jersey.
Tags: estate planning, wills, powers of attorney, health care proxy, healthcare, living will, trust, elderly, aging