3 End of Life Planning Essentials: A Will, Power of Attorney and Advance Directive
Today’s video discusses a difficult, delicate and absolutely unavoidable topic. Jane Duncan Rogers, the founder of the nonprofit organization Before I Go Solutions shares her wisdom concerning end of life plans for older women. Read on to learn about the legal essentials you need to ensure your end of life wishes will be honored.
The Will: Who Needs One and Can You Write Your Own?
Think you don’t need a will because you hold your assets jointly with a spouse or partner who’ll keep everything when you die? Even so, Jane cautions that a will can make your passing much easier for your survivors to bear. Why?
Because grief takes a toll on our ability to think clearly. Without a will, your loved ones may be lost when it comes to dealing with your estate. Knowing exactly what you wanted can prevent completely unnecessary family rifts.
And closing your estate will take much longer and cost much more if you don’t have one. Think of your will as a huge gift to those you’re leaving behind.
Can You Make Your Will Without a Lawyer?
If you’re in the UK and everything you have is held jointly, you may not need a lawyer’s advice to make your will. But Jane advises checking the laws elsewhere. Not all countries are the same.
For most of us, however, a signed and dated paper listing our wishes and titled My Last Will and Testament won’t do. To be legal, a will must also be witnessed by someone not named as a beneficiary.
Wills Can Be Complicated
But the best reason to have a lawyer draw up your will, Jane says, is that “… people don’t know what they don’t know in their particular situation. “
Do you have a large estate, a blended family or assets in another country? Then you need a lawyer’s advice on the best way to structure your will for your beneficiaries’ benefit.
If You Really Want to Go It Alone
To write you own will, you’ll need the correct legal forms. In the UK, purchase an entire package from W.H. Smith stationers’ stores. Elsewhere, the forms may be available to download online.
Just remember that going this route means periodically checking to make sure your forms remain current. In most countries, the laws governing wills are frequently updated.
The Advance Directive: So You Don’t Get What You Don’t Want
None of us likes to think about it. But even in the best of health, we’re one serious accident away from being incapacitated. If that happens, Jane warns, we can’t expect doctors to do anything except fight to keep us breathing.
To avoid being be kept alive at any cost, you need an advance directive. Also called a living will or advance decision, it makes clear what care measures you’re refusing.
And for your loved ones, having your advance directive in one of life’s most difficult situations will be a tremendous comfort.
The Power of Attorney: Because Sometimes You Need Someone to Act on Your Behalf
We all dread the idea of not being able to manage for ourselves. But if that day comes, knowing you’ve appointed a trusted person to manage your affairs can bring tremendous peace of mind.
Different people can have your powers of attorney for finances and health care (sometimes called a health care proxy). When you recover, their powers end.
Concerned that your financial appointee might declare you incapacitated and raid your bank account? Then appoint more than one person and stipulate that the appointees must agree about your condition. Jane observes that doing so usually prevents wrongdoing.
Do You Need an Attorney to Get a Power of Attorney?
Not necessarily, says Jane. If you’re in the UK and comfortable with legal language, appoint a power of attorney through the Office of the Public Guardian website. Otherwise, shop for an attorney because prices vary by up to 400 percent.
In the U.S. power-of-attorney laws vary among states. Wherever you are, check the regulations to determine if you need a lawyer.
Your Funeral: Yes or No?
Your last legal end of life requirement is to arrange for your body’s disposal according to your country’s laws. But you’re not required to have a funeral.
And if you don’t want one, encouraging your loved ones to celebrate your life in other ways is a golden opportunity to begin a dialogue about your end of life plans!
What steps are you taking to prepare a will, power of attorney and advance directive? Have you shared your end-of life-plans with those you’ll be leaving behind? Please share your experiences in the conversation below!