No matter how old you are or the state of your health, it is important to have an estate plan. An estate plan is not only important to ensure that your plans are carried out after your death but also ensures that your wishes are followed during your lifetime.
There are several documents that should be included in an estate plan. An estate plan can be carefully tailored to meet your needs or those of a loved one. An estate plan may include the following:
Power of Attorney for Health Care Decisions
General Durable Power of Attorney
Having an estate plan ensures that you have made plans in case you become incapacitated and are unable to make decisions on your own behalf. It authorizes someone to make medical or financial decisions on your behalf.
A power of attorney may be revoked or revised if you later change your mind about allowing another person to make these decisions for you. The person you appoint as your agent may also be limited in the power of attorney regarding what decisions they are or are not allowed to make on your behalf. Your decision-making authority will be restored if you recover from your incapacity.
A living will is a document that states what medical procedures you do or do not want when you are facing the end of life. A living will should specify whether or not you want to remain on life support, receive artificial nutrition and hydration, or be resuscitated, if you stop breathing.
If you fail to plan your estate, you face the risk that your future could be decided by state law. This means that you are risking that upon your death your assets will be distributed according to the state's one-size-fits-all plan.
By having a will or trust, you can ensure that upon your death, your assets will be distributed according to your wishes. If you pass away without a will or trust, your assets will be distributed according to state laws regarding "intestate succession". The purpose of intestate succession is to distribute the decedent's property to family members in a way the state determines is appropriate.
Another consequence of not having an estate plan is that decisions could be made for you, if you become seriously ill or incapacitated, that are against your will. Even if you have told family members how you want decisions to be made, this will have no effect unless the appropriate documents have been signed.
A common misconception is that your spouse automatically has the authority to make decisions about your medical care in an emergency situation. This is not true unless you have signed a power of attorney authorizing someone else to make decisions on your behalf.
Do you have questions about estate planning in Kansas or Missouri? Contact Rundberg Law, LLC for a consultation and more information.