The recent deaths of Carrie Fisher at the age of 60 and George Michael at the age of 53 are a reminders that death or incapacity does not necessarily wait until old age to strike. If even wealthy, well-connected individuals still seemingly in the midst of productive lives can be struck down, then the same could happen to any of us. It is important for all adults to plan, not only for death, but also a potential incapacity due to illness or disability.
An earlier blog post highlighted the dangers of dying without a will: Dangers of Dying Without a Will
In short, dying without a will causes the assets of an estate to be divided in shares mandated by state law without regard for the circumstances of the broader family situation. Additionally, once someone has died, it is too late to take steps to minimize any potential estate tax burden.
An additional situation that can sadly go unplanned for is permanent incapacity due to illness or disability. While unpleasant to think about, it is important to discuss what do if certain situations were to happen to you. Not only should you think about what you would want to happen in certain situations, but you should also develop a list of individuals you would trust to make decisions about your health care options and management of your assets on your behalf. An elder law attorney can draft powers of attorney that can ensure that people you trust will be in position to make decisions on your behalf in case of your incapacity. If you have specific wishes about what to do in certain situations, an elder law attorney can properly draft instructions to make your wishes legally binding.
In the absence of a well-drafted power of attorney, otherwise needless and costly legal fights may ensue between family members over who should make decisions on your behalf. Additionally, any specific wishes you may have about certain health care choices or management of your assets may go unheeded in the absence of a properly drafted written document.
Please call Martha C. Brown & Associates at (314) 962-0186 to help you create a complete estate plan that ensures that your wishes will be followed in case something unfortunate should occur.