But what if you do not have children? The answer may not be as clear, but it is no less important.
If you do not specify in a proper Will or Trust to whom and how your want your assets disposed of at your death, the State will do so for you. Generally, the State will find your closest heirs and divide your assets among them. Sound ok since that’s where you would send your assets anyway? Then you should know that intestate (without a will) probate proceedings tend to be much more costly and time consuming than proceedings with a properly drafted Will. The urgency is even greater when you do not want your brother and his kids to inherit your assets. To direct otherwise requires an estate plan.
An estate plan is more than just a will though. A Healthcare Directive and a well-drafted Power of Attorney are key components to a basic estate plan. A Healthcare Directive names someone to make medical decisions for you in the event you cannot do so, it grants such person authorization to access your medical records under HIPAA, and it may include preferences for end of life care in the event of a terminal condition. These directives make it much easier on loved ones to properly care for you in the event you can no longer communicate your medical preferences. Anyone over the age of 18 needs a Healthcare Directive. A parent no longer has automatic access to the medical records of their children after age 18, but so often an 18 year old is still under the care (financially, and otherwise) of their parent.
The last leg of the stool is a properly drafted General Power of Attorney. These may be drafted to be “springing”; so that they spring into effect only upon incapacity. Then, in the event of incapacity, you have previously named a trusted individual to manage your financial and personal affairs. Should incapacity occur without a Power of Attorney in place, a court may appoint a Guardian or Conservator after an administrative process.
These Powers of Attorney and Healthcare Directives are essential documents, even for those individuals who do not feel a will is necessary because they have no children. We, of course, still disagree with that notion, and we will be glad to discuss how each of these components of a good estate plan fit your specific needs.