August is National Make-a-Will Month
People sidestep discussing or even thinking about death for good reason. Though death is ominous, it is also inevitable. We recommend that those who have not made a will and advanced directive should seize the opportunity to do so.
Creating a Will for Peace of Mind
Make life less stressful by meeting with an estate planning attorney to create a will. In particular, if you’re in your golden years, you will enjoy invaluable peace of mind with the creation of a will. Moreover, if you’re suffering from a serious medical condition, regardless of your age, you will also need a will.
Expressing desires for the distribution of assets to an estate planning attorney sets the stage for the creation of a will. The will is copied thrice; one copy remains with the estate planning attorney, another copy is given to the client, and a third is filed with the local probate court.
Desires for the distribution of a house, car, investments, cash savings and other assets will be executed exactly as stated in the will. The alternative is to die intestate, meaning without a will. Intestate death spurs a potentially lengthy and divisive probate process that does not guarantee assets will be distributed fairly.
Create an Advanced Directive
Advanced directives are necessary in addition to a will. An advanced directive is a legal document that states a person’s wishes about receiving medical care. Advanced directives are especially important for patients in hospice care who might not be capable of communicating their desires to care providers and medical professionals. If an advanced directive is on file, those desires will be fulfilled exactly as expressed when the legal document was created at the point when the patient was of sound mind.
As an example, an advanced directive contains information about how one is to be cared for at the end of life while in a hospital bed or assisted living center. There are several different types of advanced directives. One such advance directive is a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order that communicates one’s desire not to be resuscitated in the event of loss of consciousness or another life-threatening event.
Another example of an advance directive is the Medical Power of Attorney. Also referred to as the Medical POA for short, this legal document explains how one’s medical care is to be provided toward the end of life. The medical power of attorney identifies the specific party who will make medical decisions on behalf of the patient.
Prepare a Living Will With an Estate Planning Attorney
A living will is distinct from the aforementioned legal documents as it details the medical treatments a patient desires after suffering incapacitation and at the end of his or her life. The living will is also used to communicate the forms of medical care a patient does not desire. This legal tool is different from a traditional will in that it does not communicate one’s desires for the distribution of assets.
Examples of the desires communicated in living wills include:
- The use of feeding tubes if it is no longer possible to feed oneself
- The length of time life is extended
- The use of resuscitation if the heart isn’t beating
Such matters are critically important when one is in significant cognitive decline or suffering a terminal illness.
Update the Will After Significant Life Events
Life changes in meaningful and unpredictable ways, necessitating the updating of one’s will to reflect those changes. An estate planning attorney will change the language of the will to correspond to the gain/loss of assets or other life events.
As an example, if one inherits assets from a parent, spouse, sibling or other party, the will should be altered to reflect the addition of those assets. Moreover, if one spends down assets when transitioning through the golden years, transferring money to offspring or other parties, the will should accurately reflect the new financial situation. Even life events such as divorce, remarriage and moving to a new property require an update of one’s will.