Your Legacy & How To Protect It
No one wants to think about the inevitable, yet unexpected accidents or a sudden illness can occur at any time. If you are unable to make medical decisions for yourself or you were suddenly taken away from your family, who would make medical decisions on your behalf? How will your surviving spouse and your children be cared for? How will college for your children be paid for? Who will manage any financial or business affairs? All of these are critical questions that need to be carefully considered and planned for ahead of time.
Three key documents play a role in how your final wishes will be carried out:
- A Living Will
- A Power of Attorney
- Your Last Will & Testament
Without these documents in place, surviving family members often bear the burden of guilt as they struggle to make decisions that they hope you would agree with. In addition to second-guessing themselves, other family members may have strong feelings about what is the ‘right’ thing to do — and these important decisions are usually made under the most emotional of circumstances.
By talking to your family, a financial planner and an attorney you can ensure that you and your loved ones will be taken care of according to your wishes when you’re no longer there to care for them yourself. Advance planning that gives specific directives about your legacy may be the best gift you can give your family.
Power of Attorney / Durable Medical Power of Attorney
A routine surgery doesn’t exactly go according to plan or a medical emergency happens and you are no longer able — even temporarily — to make decisions about the care of your children or financial decisions that keep your personal bills paid and your business operating without interruption. Your children’s well-being plus the mass of paperwork, decisions, and possibly even creditors that need to be dealt with once you recover can be overwhelming — all while you’re still trying to recuperate.
A Power of Attorney gives another person the legal authority to ‘stand in your shoes’ and make decisions for you in the event you are unable to do so on your own.
Powers of Attorney are highly flexible and can be of any duration you choose, for any purpose you instruct, and can go into effect and expire based upon the happening of particular events.
A very important consideration for parents of adult children is to make sure that a Medical Power of Attorney is in place before your children leave home or go off to college. Should an accident or other incident happen after your son or daughter turns 18, some doctors and other health professionals may refuse to talk to the parents without this key document in place.
Catastrophic medical conditions are one of the leading causes of bankruptcy for families. When an accident or unexpected illness happens, family members usually focus on the immediate medical crisis, often while emotions are high and they are forced to make near impossible decisions. Inevitably, the time will come when they must face the reality of the devastating financial picture that remains.
A Living Will (also known as a Durable Medical Power of Attorney) often goes hand in hand with a Last Will and Testament and contains your instructions for medical treatment should you become severely physically or mentally disabled or incapacitated.
With a Living Will in place, you can elect whether (and for how long) you want to remain on life support or what types of medical treatment you authorize to sustain your life.
By taking the time to carefully consider these important matters while you are still healthy, you can ensure that your wishes are carried out and your surviving family members are not emotionally burdened with impossible medical decisions or exposed to the potentially devastating financial burden of end of life care.
People in their golden years are not the only ones who need a Last Will & Testament. A will ensures that your final wishes are carried out for the division of your property, the custody and care of your children, and even the ownership of your pets.
The state of Colorado has specific legal requirements for wills -- requirements that you may not be aware of or find in an online will. A will that does not comply with Colorado law will be deemed invalid and unenforceable. In the event of a challenge to a will that was prepared using an online templete, you're on your own. The company behind the online wills will not provide you with an attorney to stand behind their documents.
Most people have heard the term 'probate' but don't know much about it or how it works. In simple terms, probate is the process by which the courts and an appointed administrator (most likely an independent third party) decide how your estate is distributed -- which may or may not mean that your spouse or your children automatically get everything or even an equal share. Probate is often the only option when someone passes without a Last Will & Testament in place.
You have worked your whole life to provide for yourself and your family. Your Last Will & Testament is a legal document that spells out exactly how -- and to whom -- your assets will be given.
Peace of Mind For You & Your Family
Powers of Attorney, Living Wills and a Last Will & Testament are the three invaluable documents that act as 'ensurance' policies to ensure your wishes and the financial safety and well-being of your family extend beyond your ability to care for them yourself.
My firm would be honored to help you and members of your family navigate these delicate waters and put together one, two or all three documents that follow Colorado law to ensure that your wishes are carried out.