Summary: Estate planning is not something to be scared of. Having a plan in place gives you the peace of mind that your assets are protected, your medical wishes are documented, and that you have made provisions for your friends and loved ones.
As an adult, estate planning is one of those things you know you should be doing. But have you actually taken the time to put a plan in place? Probably not, according to a recent survey from Caring.com. Researchers found that about 68% of adults in the U.S. do not have an estate plan. The reasons why are varied. Some people are uncomfortable thinking about incapacity or what would happen to loved ones in the event of their death. Or, some people are stuck on the misconception that estate planning is only for those with large, wealthy families.
But estate planning is not something to be scared of. Having a plan in place gives you the peace of mind that your assets are protected, your medical wishes are documented, and that you have made provisions for your friends and loved ones. There are three legal documents in particular that will ensure that the estate planning and the probate process is smooth and stress-free as possible.
A will is a legal document in which a person provides instructions for the distribution of his or her assets, upon death. This document can also be used to designate a guardian for any minor children. The executor of the will, also known as a personal representative, will help ensure that an individual’s property is passed to the beneficiaries according to his or her final wishes.
Read our blog on serving as an executor.
Read our blog on what a will won’t do.
Watch our video on whether you have to probate a will.
Durable Power of Attorney
This document enables a person to act on your behalf in the event of your disability. A power of attorney can manage affairs including financial matters, real estate transactions, and other legal decisions. A person can choose when the Durable Power of Attorney forms go into effect (ex: immediately, at a specific future date, only under specific circumstances); however, these powers end at the principal’s death. Absent a Power of Attorney, a court may appoint a conservator or decide what happens to your assets, should you become incapacitated.
Watch our video on Georgia’s updated Power of Attorney law.
Watch our video on the differences between a conservator and a guardian.
Advance Directive for Health Care
This is a form in which a person lists his or her health care preferences in detail (ex: treatment, medical testing, care options). It puts family members, doctors, and hospitals on notice – and is only used if the person is unable to communicate his or her own wishes. An individual can designate a Power of Attorney to make health care decisions; otherwise, the court may appoint a guardian.
Read our article on navigating Georgia’s Advance Directive for Health Care.
Watch our video on how to use an Advance Directive.
Read our blog on choosing your medical decision-maker.
These three documents provide the foundation for an estate plan and help an individual stay in control of his or her financial, legal, and health decisions. If you are anxious about creating an estate plan, creating a will, power of attorney and an advance directive is an excellent first step. If you have any questions about estate planning, or if you would like to set up a consultation, Siedentopf Law’s website at EstateLawAtlanta.com or call (404) 736 – 6066.
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