This article was written by: Joanna R. Adu, Esq. of Lyons & Associates, P.C.
Congratulations, you made it through yet another holiday season and during an ongoing pandemic nonetheless!! As we transition into the new year, it is the perfect time to ensure your affairs are in order so that your plans and wishes will be carried out upon your death. At minimum, every single person should have a basic estate plan consisting of a Last Will and Testament, General Durable Power of Attorney, and Advance Health Care Directive.
Last Will and Testament – A Last Will and Testament (“Will”) is the legal document through which a person declares his or her intentions for the disposition of individually owned assets (real and personal) at the time of death. The Will includes the appointment of an Executor, who is the person tasked with wrapping up your individual affairs in accordance with the provisions of your Will, as well as naming Guardian(s) of children, and Trustees of any testamentary trusts, if applicable.
General Durable Power of Attorney – A General Durable Power of Attorney is a legal document in which you will name the person(s) authorized to act on your behalf as to the matters, and under the circumstances, outlined in that document. The designated person is commonly referred to as an agent or attorney-in-fact. The authority bestowed within your power of attorney may include authority to pay your bills, access to your financial accounts, management of real property, running your business(es), receiving income or other payments, and serving as temporary guardian for your children, among a variety of other authorities and powers specific to your circumstances.
Circumstances like the ongoing COVID-19 health pandemic are stark reminders of how critical and beneficial it is to have your estate plan in place should you suddenly become ill and incapacitated. Unfortunately, in circumstances like these, the rest of your life does not automatically stop because you are incapacitated. This is why it is extremely important to designate the person who can address all other areas of your life, which may include working with your mortgage lender or landlord, utility companies, credit card companies, banks, etc., when you are unable to do so.
Advance Health Care Directive – The Advance Healthcare Directive appoints the person(s) who will make your healthcare decisions in circumstances where you are unable to make those critical health decisions yourself. In this role, your designated health care proxy will make those healthcare decisions in accordance with your wishes as expressed in a Living Will, if applicable, or as you have otherwise expressed them to your proxy. This may include consenting or rejecting to experimental treatment and consenting or refusing certain treatments and/or medications or other necessary life-sustaining treatments.
Formally designating your desired healthcare agent in an Advance Health Care Directive is important for everyone, but particularly for unmarried couples who desire to have their partner step in to make those medical decisions for them in times of incapacity. Since your partner is not classified as a family member or other next-of-kin, absent designation as your healthcare agent, you will find that your loved one is not only excluded from participating in medical decision-making but is also closed off from getting any medical information about you including your condition, treatment and status.
The simplicity or complexity of your estate plan will depend based on an analysis of your specific circumstances, including familiar structure, desired beneficiaries, assets, debts, among others. As such, consulting with an estate planning attorney is always advised. The skilled and knowledgeable attorneys at Lyons & Associates have extensive estate planning experience in addressing this particular issue. We invite you to contact us online or give us a call at our office at 908-575-9777 to schedule an appointment today. For your convenience we offer telephone consultations which allow you to speak with an experienced attorney about your estate planning needs from the comfort and security of your home.
This article was sponsored by our legal partners, Lyons & Associates, P.C.