TWO ESTATE PLANNING DOCUMENTS YOU MIGHT NEED TOMORROW
There are two estate planning documents that everyone should have, whether they are young or old, rich or poor, married or single: a power of attorney and a living will. While people generally think that estate planning documents are for after you die, a power of attorney and a living will are documents that actually can only be used during your lifetime.
A power of attorney is a document in which you designate an agent with the authority to act on your behalf regarding financial and legal matters. You can limit the authority you give to your agent in a power of attorney, such that it can be used in only a particular circumstance. For instance, if you need to sell your home but are unable to be present on the closing day, you could prepare a power of attorney giving a friend or family member the limited authority to sign the closing papers for you. Often, however, we recommend the preparation of a power of attorney that is broad in its scope so that you have someone (typically a spouse, family member, or close friend) who can act on your behalf with respect to a wide array of matters. This would be particularly helpful if you were to become disabled and unable to handle your own affairs. The general power of attorney document we prepare at McChesney & Dale allows your agent to pay your bills, invest your money, file and pay your taxes, manage your retirement benefits, etc.
The other document everyone is advised to have for use during their lifetime is a living will, also called an advance medical directive. This is a document that allows you to specify the structure of your medical care under certain circumstances. First, the living will allows you to determine whether you want medical interventions used to try to extend your life if you have a terminal condition or are in a vegetative state. Second, the living will allows you to appoint an agent who can make medical decisions for you if you become incapacitated.