Four Documents Everyone Must Have

Recently Tom Lauricella wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal titled, "Four Estate-Planning Documents Everyone Should Have.  Check that article out via this link .wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304572204579503983567868234

I agree with his thesis that everyone should have a will, durable general power of attorney, durable medical power of attorney, and living will.

If you have minor children your will should determine who will care for them in your absence.  If you have any assets you should have a will to establish who will be in charge of distributing those assets and who will receive them.  Since you may acquire additional assets up to the moment of death, the distribution of assets is important even if you think that you have already made adequate provision by gift or deeding them, directing their disbursement via some entity such as a trust, corporation, partnership, limited liability company or the like.

The powers of attorney are crucial since we may all become incompetent at some time.  If we become incompetent to make our own decisions we should have a power of attorney designating who we want to make decisions for us instead of leaving control to someone else who may not know our priorities.  The "durable" used before powers of attorneys refers to the statement contained in those powers of attorneys that they are not affected by the signor's later becoming incapacitated.  This is important because of the legal concept that agreements may be voided upon the signor's incapacity.  In the case of a power of attorney...when you become incapacitated is just when you want the document to be effective...not when you want it to be made void.   So be sure to include the language that the power of attorney is not to be affected by your incapacity.

Finally, the living will.  in the last half century there have been several high profile lawsuits regarding disputes in families as to whether or not to discontinue artificial life support for a family member who is terminally ill and comatose.  In most of those cases, the judges have stated that it would be very helpful if the now comatose person had stated his or her preference regarding life support before becoming incompetent.  Now many make their wishes known regarding prolonging life when they are near death by executing "living wills".   The living will usually states that the signer does not want medical devices to prolong his/her life if he/she is very near death, cannot communicate, and is not likely to recover.  If that is your philosophy you should execute a living will.   If you disagree and want medical science to prolong your life even if you are comatose and there is no hope of recovery, then a living will is not for you.

As Mr. Lauricella stated:  almost everyone should have a will, general power of attorney, medical power of attorney and a living will.

Posted on May 4, 2014 .