A will is the legal documentation of your last wishes, and takes effect upon your death. It allows you to choose who will receive your assets when you die, select how your legatees will receive those assets (i.e., outright or through a trust), appoint who you would like to become the tutors (also known as “guardians” in many states) for your minor children and select who you want to manage your estate and make sure the terms of your will are followed.
Living Wills/Advance Directives
A Living Will/Advanced Directives concerns end of life decisions and enables you to decide if you wish to receive life-sustaining treatments in the event you are terminally ill or injured, including whether you wish to be provided food and water through artificial means. This document “directs” your healthcare providers as to what care to provide if you are no longer able to effectively communicate your wishes. Living Wills/Advanced Directives can be accompanied with the appointment of a healthcare power of attorney, which will enable a person whom you designate to make healthcare decisions on your behalf.
General Procuration (Power of Attorney)
A general procuration (known in most states as a power of attorney) allows you to appoint someone (called an agent or attorney-in-fact) to manage your assets. A general procuration usually provides your agent with the authority to make decisions on your behalf related to your property, your finances, and other personal affairs. This type of procuration can also include the power to make healthcare decisions. A general procuration is a vital document to have in place should you become incapacitated, so that the person whom you want will be able to handle your affairs. With the general procuration, the agent you appoint can take the actions specified in the document. Without a general procuration, a court proceeding may be necessary. This type of proceeding, called an Interdiction (also known as “Guardianships” in other states), can result in a court declaring you incompetent to manage your affairs. As part of this proceeding, the court will decide who will make decisions on your behalf.
Succession (also known as “probate” in many states) is the legal process necessary to transfer assets from your estate to your heirs or legatees. A succession should occur regardless of whether you have a will. Whether your family completes a small succession or a regular succession will depend on the value of your estate. This succession process usually occurs during a time of distress when family and friends are still dealing with the loss of their loved one. Working with a compassionate professional can help move the process along quickly and calmly.
There are a variety of different trusts that can be created depending upon your individual needs. For example, there are credit shelter trusts, irrevocable life insurance trusts, special needs trusts, charitable remainder trusts, revocable living trusts and testamentary trusts. These types of trusts can be used as part of your estate plan to protect your assets or safeguard the assets you leave to your heirs and legatees.
Medicare and Medicaid are two distinct, complex, constantly changing health care programs. For an elderly individual needing long term care, these two programs may be utilized to provide continuous care. While Medicare is under the sole control of the federal government and generally provides health care to the aged population, Medicaid is a health care program run by the individual states. Medicaid is the program many people with limited income and resources look to for assistance with providing long term care in a nursing facility. Understanding the rules and regulations regarding your resources and the benefits provided under Medicaid are crucial to avoid denial of coverage and penalty periods.