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A Will Isn’t Your Most Important Document

There’s nothing like being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness or getting up there in years to make you start thinking about getting your affairs in order. For many people, the first step involves creating a Will.

Would you be surprised to learn that your Will isn’t your most important estate planning document?

A Will lets people know who gets your stuff after you die, but that’s pretty much it.

For instance, if you have a Will, your heirs will end up in Probate court after you die. This is a lengthy and often expensive procedure that can be avoided completely with a Trust. Unlike Wills, Trusts allow direct disposition of assets while avoiding Probate.

That’s not the only thing. A Will doesn’t do a thing to help if you end up dealing with the challenges created by old age, long-term illness, or unexpected disability. Let’s say you have a stroke, suffer a brain injury from a car accident or fall, or develop Alzheimer’s disease. Let’s say that this unfortunate situation has left you unable to move, speak, or even reason. You can’t pay your bills, access your checking account, talk to the cable company, file your taxes, manage your portfolio, or look after your house.

If you find yourself in this situation, guess what? A Will won’t help you. What you need is Durable Power of Attorney that names an Attorney-in-Fact to conduct business on your behalf. If you don’t have a Durable Power of Attorney, the person attempting to manage your affairs is going to have a hard time. Let’s say it’s your son. He needs to turn off the cable service, but the company won’t talk to him. He needs to access your checking account to pay your bills, but the bank won’t let him. Even if you are the spouse, the bank or cable company isn’t going to speak with you if your name isn’t on the account. It’s the same if you’re a parent and something happens to your child if he or she is over the age of 18.

If you don’t have a Durable Power of Attorney, you’re out of luck.

The Durable Power of Attorney makes it possible for the person you name to manage your financial affairs. But those aren’t the only affairs you’ll need someone else to manage. Who will make decisions about what kind of care you receive if you can’t make those decisions yourself? Who is going to decide whether to provide you with oxygen or feeding tubes or dialysis? Who will decide whether to “pull the plug” if there’s no hope for your recovery?

If you don’t have a Healthcare Power of Attorney that states who will direct your healthcare when you are unable to do so (your healthcare advocate), strangers may end up deciding these things for you. Think carefully about whom you appoint as your healthcare advocate. Does your advocate know your wishes? Have you chosen an advocate who will abide by your wishes? For instance, if you don’t want to be on life support, but you know that your spouse won’t have the emotional strength to pull the plug, then your spouse isn’t the right choice to be your advocate.

If you are counting on your estate plan to protect assets for yourself or for loved ones, avoid probate, and help your loved ones manage your affairs if you’re unable to do so yourself, you need more than a Will.

Takacs McGinnis Elder Care Law can help you design a customized estate plan that accomplishes all your goals. Don’t wait a second longer to check this off your to-do list. Call Takacs McGinnis Elder Care Law at 615.824.2571 to schedule your no-obligation consultation.

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