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Why should everyone have a durable power of attorney?

We have likely all heard the tale of a person who passed away without an estate plan, leaving the heirs to battle it out.  Some of us have actually experienced the pain of losing a loved one who left no instructions as to their last wishes. Dying without an estate plan in place can leave a legal disaster for your loved ones.

Your heirs may feel confused and lost as to what decisions you would want made regarding your healthcare, finances, and funeral. At times, people you love could receive nothing due to New York’s intestacy laws.  To avoid the potential legal mess surrounding serious illness or death without an estate plan, be sure you have prepared the following vital estate planning documents:

Last Will and Testament

A Last Will and Testament allows you to decide who will receive which of your assets.  It additionally allows you to name a guardian for your minor child. Your will should convey to your heirs what you want to occur after your death, setting out everything from whom you want to receive your home to how you would like your funeral conducted.  A will is a powerful document that everyone should create, but your estate plan should not be comprised of just a will because a will is subject to limitations.

Durable Power of Attorney

A durable power of attorney enables you to choose someone who will act on your behalf, both financially and legally, if you are ever in the position where you cannot make decisions on your own.  You will not be relinquishing control in making this document, as it only goes into effect if you are declared incompetent. A durable power of attorney is critical to make as soon as possible because once you are incompetent, you no longer have the power to make this designation.

Revocable Living Trust

While a will allows you to name whom you want to receive your assets, it does not eliminate the need for probate.  Your assets that are passed through a will in New York will generally need to go through probate, which can be expensive and time-consuming.  A revocable living trust requires that you place your assets in control of the trust before your death. Upon your death, the assets can be immediately distributed to the named beneficiaries without the need for court involvement.  Accordingly, a trust can save your heir’s significant money and time, while giving you greater flexibility in the distribution of your assets.

These are just a few of the many estate planning tools at your disposal.  Your estate planning attorney will review your unique asset and family situation to determine the strongest estate plan that will protect you and your family to the fullest extent.