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By Jeremy P. Summers
TRUSSVILLE — We hear it all when it comes to estate planning. I know that thinking about your own mortality is not a fun topic, but it is a necessary consideration. Few of us have any advance warning of when we die or when we cannot make our own decisions.
It has been my experience, that the people most likely to already have a Will and a Durable Power of Attorney (“POA”) are those who have dealt firsthand with the hardships of the death or care of a loved one. I also hear several misconceptions
about Wills and POAs.
A Will is an instrument in which a person directs where, and to whom, they would like their assets to group on their demise. Wills can designate people as guardians, custodians or trustees for your minor children (or pets!) upon your passing and even include specifics about the funeral and burial wishes. A Will also designates a person whose duty it is to carry out the wishes of the deceased. A Will only has power after the maker dies, and has no bearing whatsoever while the maker is alive.
The main advantage of a Will is that you decide where your assets go and how they are to be distributed. Without a Will, the Court determines who inherits from you and to what extent. By not having a Will, you take away your own input, and can potentially add extra costs and time in administering the estate.
A POA is an instrument wherein a person grants another person the ability to handle decisions and perform duties, on their behalf when they cannot make those decisions for themselves. Those situations could include loss of competency by injury, mental deficiency, or illness.
POAs allow that designated person to consent to medical procedures and to communicate with banks, hospitals, and insurance companies. They can even name who will make “end of life” decisions for the person if the medical prognosis is poor. A POA only has power if a person reaches incompetency but is still alive, and has no bearing whatsoever on that person once they die. The advantage of a POA is simple: if you wait until a situation arises where you need a POA, it is likely already too late to make one. The person executing a POA has to be competent. If an incompetent person doesn’t already have a POA, someone may need to seek a guardianship or conservatorship over that person through the courts.
Guardians are people appointed to take care of and manage the property of an incompetent person. Conservators are people appointed to protect and manage the financial affairs of an incompetent person. Guardianships and conservatorships involve the added costs of attorneys, court hearings and bonds, plus the strain and time of court proceedings.
So, what are the costs and time involved in preparing these instruments? Although those factors are dependent on the attorney you use and the complexity of your Will, most people should be able to accomplish this for a few hundred dollars and less than an hour of their time. The costs and time of preparing now will certainly be worth saving your loved ones from the costs and time of being unprepared in the future.
A simple Will and a POA can go a long way toward easing the burden on your loved ones when you pass away or should your mental capabilities decline. A licensed attorney experienced in estate planning can assist you in preparing these instruments for you.
Jeremy P. Summers office is located at 5950 Chalkville Mountain Road, STE 114 in Trussville.
No representation is made that the quality of the legal service to be performed is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers.