Here’s a review of some basic estate planning documents that you should consider and why.
Your Will, or Last Will & Testament, is the legal document you use to tell the world who you want to receive your property upon your death. If you have minor children, your Will is also the document that you will use to designate the Guardian for your minor children.
If You Die Without A Will
If you die without a Will, the intestacy laws of the State of Connecticut will determine who receives your property. As a result, you may end up leaving your assets to people you never wanted to receive them or your assets may end up being divided in a way you never contemplated.
For instance, most people think that if they have a spouse and they die without a Will, all of their assets will go to their spouse. That is not necessarily the case, particularly if you have children. Additionally, people who have children from a prior marriage or relationship need to understand that the intestacy laws do not protect those children the way they may desire. Generally speaking, across the board, intestacy laws are not going to meet the wishes of most people.
If you have minor children and you die without a Will, the probate court will decide who is to serve as the Guardian of your minor children. This could create a fight among family members and result in someone you would have never chosen raising your minor children.
As you can see, it is extremely important that you have a Will in place at the time of your death.
Durable Power of Attorney
While your Will allows you the opportunity to plan for your eventual death, the Durable Power of Attorney allows you to plan for a future disability or incapacity. In the Durable Power of Attorney document, you will designate an individual to act on your behalf, even if you should become incapacitated or unable to make decisions. A Durable Power of Attorney is a very powerful document, therefore, you need to be sure to choose a person who will act in your best interest.
Advance Medical Directive
An Advance Medical Directive is a legal document in which you can (1) designate the person who will make medical decisions for you should you be unable to do so, also known as your Health Care Representative; (2) set forth your Living Will in which you state your wishes regarding end-of-life decisions; and (3) state your wishes regarding organ donation.
Health Care Representative
Since your Health Care Representative is the person with whom your physicians will discuss your medical condition, including your diagnosis, surgical options, medications, and end-of-life concerns, you should choose someone you trust can make competent decisions in the face of extreme emotional distress in accordance with your wishes.
A Living Will can help alleviate the emotional burden and potential arguments that can result from having to make end-of-life decisions for a loved one. The Living Will essentially removes this decision from your loved ones and firmly makes the decision yours. Therefore, if you have strong feelings about being kept alive through the use of artificial means or anticipate issues to arise among family members regarding this type of decision, you should have a Living Will in place.