A skillfully prepared Will is the foundation of an estate plan. It provides instructions for distributing your property. Your Will becomes effective upon your death. A Will does the following:
- States your residence;
- Revokes prior Wills;
- Provides for paying debts and funeral expenses;
- Specifies how you want property distributed and when;
- Names beneficiaries;
- Specifies charitable bequests. You leave a specific amount of money, asset or percentage of your estate to the charity;
- Names executor;
- Names personal and financial guardian for minor children, adult children, siblings, etc.
POWER OF ATTORNEY
This is a document by which you appoint a person to act as your agent (or attorney-in-fact). The person whom you have appointed as your agent acts within the authority spelled out in the power of attorney. You can designate in this power of attorney whether or not you want the power of attorney to become effective immediately or only on your disability. Through a power of attorney, an agent may continue to act on your behalf even after you have had a stroke or other incapacitating illness or accident. You can allow your agent to handle all your financial tasks, including the power to sell, rent or mortgage your home, pay your bills, cash or deposit checks, buy and sell your stock, investments, or personal items and make gifts.
MEDICAL POWER OF ATTORNEY
The Medical Power of Attorney gives the person you name as your agent the authority to make any and all health care decisions for you according to your wishes, including your religious and moral beliefs, when you are no longer capable of making them yourself. This document provides that your agent is obligated to follow your instructions when making decisions on your behalf. Unless you state otherwise, your agent has the same authority to make decisions about your health care as you would have had.
DIRECTIVE TO PHYSICIANS (LIVING WILL)
This document expresses your wishes regarding what you would or would not want regarding your treatment if you become terminally ill, with no prospect of recovery, perhaps in pain or in a coma. The law provides that if you sign a Living Will your doctors will be fully protected in relying on it. This document protects your family and health care professionals from the stress and potential conflict of making decisions on your behalf. The Living Will can provide legal and moral guidance to both the doctor and the family. More importantly, it also lets you express your wishes when you are physically unable to speak for yourself.
APPOINTMENT OF GUARDIANSHIP
This is a properly constructed legal document that allows you to specify what will happen to your physical person and your personal finances if you are physically or mentally incapacitated. You can instruct others how to carry out your wishes for managing your physical well being and finances if you are unable to do so yourself. In this document you can name a specific person that you would like to be appointed as your guardian of your person (which would make decisions regarding your personal care) and your estate (which would make decisions regarding your financial estate).
BODY DISPOSITION DIRECTIVE
This is a document which expresses your wishes concerning the final disposition of your body. Letting your survivors know your wishes saves them the difficulties of making these decisions at a painful time. And many family members and friends find that discussing these matters ahead of time is great relief — especially if a person is elderly or in poor health and death is expected soon. Some wise comparison shopping in advance can help ensure that costs will be controlled or kept to a minimum.
- A typical final arrangements document might include:
- the name of the mortuary or other institution that will handle burial or cremation
- whether or not you wish to be embalmed
- the type of casket or container in which your remains will be buried or cremated, including whether you want it present at any after-death ceremony
- the details of any ceremony you want before the burial or cremation
- who your pallbearers will be if you wish to have some
- how your remains will be transported to the cemetery and gravesite
- where your remains will be buried, stored or scattered
- the details of any ceremony you want to accompany your burial, interment or scattering, and
- the details of any marker you want to show where your remains are buried or interred.
MENTAL HEALTH DIRECTIVE
The Mental Health Directive gives the person you name as your agent the authority to make any and all medical health care decisions for you according to your wishes, including your wishes regarding medications for psychiatric treatment and treatment facilities. This document provides that your agent is obligated to follow your instructions when making decisions on your behalf. Unless you state otherwise, your agent has the same authority to make decisions about your mental health care as you would have had.
The principal method for donating organs is by indicating your intent to do so on a donor card. Once signed, this card identifies you to medical personnel as a potential organ donor. Even if you have indicated an intent to donate your organs, an objection by your next of kin will often defeat your intention; medical personnel will usually not proceed in the face of an objection from relatives. The best safeguard is to discuss your wishes with close friends and relatives, emphasizing your strong feelings about donating your body for research or teaching and indicating your intent in writing through a donor card.