Every senior should have five documents in his or her estate plan. For financial concerns, A Will and a Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) are a must (this article). For health concerns, a Health Care Proxy, Living Will and HIPPA agreement are necessary (next article).
A Will is a document that directs how any assets in your name alone, whether real estate, personal property or money (in all its myriad forms, such as stocks, bank accounts, CD’s, etc.) is distributed upon your death. By making a will (or a Living Trust) you can determine who gets what (or doesn’t get what), according to your wishes. If you die without a Will, the State will make these determinations for you. A Will ensures the choice will be yours.
The second financially based document your estate plan should contain is a Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA). If through mental and/or physical infirmity, you become what is considered “legally incapable” of handling your own affairs, the DPOA pre-appoints somebody of your choice to make decisions for you in your interest on your behalf. If no DPOA is in place and you become legally incapacitated, your family, friends, or whoever is close to you, must go to probate court and petition the court to become your conservator, a time consuming, expensive, and nerve racking experience. By having a simple DPOA in place, this potential crisis may be completely avoided.
Roger Levine is an Estate Planning, Probate & Elder Law Attorney with offices in Canton & Brockton MA.