Updated: Jun 14, 2020
Hi,y'all! So many people are hesitant to proactively embrace the importance of asset protection... and no! I'm not talking about your collection of vintage Star Wars memorabilia. Well, not completely. For most folks, the estate planning process include three major components: 1) Last Will and Testament; 2) Advanced Healthcare Directive, also known as a Living Will; and 3) a Durable Medical Power of Attorney.
What in the heck is probate? This deserves an entirely seperate blog post, so I'll keep it short and sweet. Each state has it's own probate laws. The probate process involves creditor notifications and other built-in delays - in short it can be a time-consuming and difficult legal process involving Chancery Court. Usually, if a person dies with a will - this is called a "testate" estate - the probate process is straight-forward and efficient. When a person dies without a Will, we call the estate an “intestate” estate. Weird, right?? Even in a testate estate, your estate is settled through the probate process. Its purpose is to prevent fraud after someone's death. It's a way to freeze the estate until a judge determines that the Will is valid, that all the relevant people have been notified, that all the property in the estate has been identified and appraised, that the creditors have been paid and that all the taxes have been paid. Once all of those things have been taken care of, the Court will issue an Order closing the estate.
I'm young, healthy, and my kids are well-loved by tons of close family and friends... I don't need an estate plan, right?! Wrong! You absolutely need to prepare for the unpreparable. Your Will is vital in establishing who will serve as guardian(s) to your minor children, your funeral wishes, and how your assets (everything you own) will be dispersed. An estate plan is merely a legal tool to protect your family and loved ones from the additional pain of an extended probate process and the potential for conflict.
Advanced Healthcare Directive/Living Will: This document allows you to express your wishes regarding end of life care. Decisions such as the use of CPR, ventilator use, artificial nutrition (tube feeding), and artificial hydration (IV fluids), and comfort care are included in this document. None of us like to think about this, but in light of current events and uncertainty, there is no time like the present to be proactive and take charge of what you want.
Medical Power of Attorney: There are other types of POAs, but this document allows you to name the agent(s) who has the authority to make medical decisions on your behalf if your doctor says you're unable to make those decisions for yourself. Obviously, this is a huge responsibility - so, choose someone who you are certain will follow your wishes about very important medical decisions.
This is just the nitty-gritty of a basic estate plan. My goal is to serve as a source of advice and counsel when creating the right estate plan for YOU. Every person's situation is different and deserves compassion and respect. You can email me at leigha@lawmalone if you have any questions or would like to learn more about the process of creating a tailored and comprehensive estate plan for you and your family.
Yes, I am an attorney, but I’m not your attorney and this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship. I am licensed to practice law in Mississippi and have based the information presented on US laws. This article is legal information and should not be seen as legal advice. You should consult with an attorney before you rely on this information.