Gallagher & Associates Team

Gallagher & Associates Team

Friday, November 13, 2009

Estate Planning: Have Your Needs Changed

Many people go through significant life changes, they marry, they divorce, they have children, but they neglect to update their wills. It's important to take time out your hectic schedule to make plans to take care of your loved ones should the worst happen to you. If you haven't thought about estate planning, it is time to do it. Do you have someone specific that you wish to leave your china set or grandfather clock? These are all specific devises that you can make in your will. Also, the benefit of creating a will is that you choose who you want to administer your estate rather than leaving it for a judge to decide. Generally, having a will is more cost effective than being without one when your estate is being probated because you have outlined to the court how you want your estate to be administered. In Florida, the administrator of your estate is known as the Personal Representative.

In addition to a will, it is equally important to execute a power of attorney, healthcare surrogate, and living will. A power of attorney is a legal document in which one person delegates power to another person over their finances and assets. The person making a designation is known as the principal, and the person to whom power is being conferred is called an attorney in fact. Power of attorneys can be general or limited, and they can also be made to withstand the principal's incapacity. This is known as a durable power of attorney.

A healthcare surrogate is a document that appoints someone to make your healthcare decisions should you be incapacitated. Unlike a power of attorney, the healthcare surrogate is only in force if the person that made the designation becomes incapacitated. The healthcare surrogate gives your surrogate the ability to make medical decisions and review your medical records on your behalf. Thus, this document is of extreme importance because you never know when something may happen to you.

A document that goes hand in hand with the healthcare surrogate is a living will. In a living will, you state that should you become incapacitated AND have either a terminal condition, an end stage condition, and/or a persistent vegetative state, AND two doctors determine you have no reasonable medical probability of recovery, whether or not you want your life to be artificially prolonged. There are some people who do want to be kept in life support in hopes of advances in medical technology, and you can make a living will expressing your desire to have your life artificially prolonged. Conversely, there are those who would prefer to be taken off life support should they be incapacitated. You can be as specific as you want in your living will.

With this year almost half over already, maybe it is time to evaluate your estate planning situation. Take the time to execute a will and accompanying auxiliary documents to spare your loved ones the possible guilt of making difficult decisions on your behalf without knowing what you would have wanted?

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