Wills and the Estate Planning Process

Planning for your future healthcare decisions and the distribution of your estate can be wise in order to prepare for any unexpected changes that life may bring. You have worked hard for your family, so it can be comforting to ensure that you have planned for their long-term well-being and financial security. The attorneys at Winegar, Wilhelm, Glynn and Roemersma are here to help you plan for your future.

Although estate planning can be a complex process, a clear, comprehensive plan can make a tough situation a little simpler for your loved ones after you pass or during a prolonged illness or incapacity.

Last Will and Testament

If you pass without a Last Will and Testament, you are deemed to have died "intestate", in which case the state has statutes that outline a hierarchy of relatives who have a right to your assets. However, you can take control of your Estate by having a Simple Will.

In a Will, you direct how your assets are divided amongst beneficiaries of your choosing, whether they are family, friends, or charities. A Will also allows you to select someone you trust to be the Executor of your Estate. Further, if you have minor children, you may appoint a Testamentary Guardian, which is a person who will take care of your children until they become adults.

If you have already executed a Will, be sure to review it from time to time because circumstances change which may necessitate revisions to your Will. It is important to keep your Last Will and Testament updated. If your Will is not current, it may not reflect your most recent wishes. It may be wise to change your Will when:

  • You get married
  • You obtain a new partner without marriage
  • You divorce your spouse
  • You have a child
  • You gain stepchildren through a new marriage
  • You have new or disposed assets

General Durable Power of Attorney

A Power of Attorney (POA) allows you to appoint someone you trust as your agent to handle your affairs either upon your disability or immediately if you so choose. If you do not have a Power of Attorney and you become unable to take care of your personal affairs, your assets and credit are at risk.

By way of examples, your appointed agent may be granted the power to:

  • Manage your finances/pay your bills
  • Manage your property
  • Collect your debts

Healthcare Power of Attorney

You should also consider a Healthcare Power of Attorney (or a Medical Power of Attorney), which allows you to appoint an agent who understands the type of medical care you wish to receive during your incapacity. Appointing a specific individual to make these decisions will alleviate arguments between family members who are indecisive or disagree about the type of medical treatment you should receive.

By way of examples, your healthcare agent may be granted the power to:

  • Determine the type of medical treatment you receive
  • Choose your medical provider/medical facility
  • Speak with your health insurance provider

Living Will/Advance Directive for Healthcare

A Living Will (also known as an Advance Directive for Healthcare) provides a set of directives dictating to others the type of medical treatment you do or do not want in the event you are unable to make the decision for yourself due to incapacity. For example, you may predetermine whether you desire artificially provided fluids and nutrition, the assistance of life-sustaining treatments, or medication for pain relief. You may name a Healthcare Representative in your Living Will who has the ability to enforce the directives you have chosen.

A major benefit of a Living Will is its ability to remove your loved ones from a situation where they must make medical decisions for you which may result in your passing. These types of decisions put an enormous amount of stress and anxiety on your family, but the directives you make in your Living Will can remove much of that burden from your loved ones.

We Can Help You Prepare For Your Future

If you are looking to put your Estate in order, please do not hesitate to contact our attorneys. From drafting a Will to executing a Power of Attorney, we are here to ensure that your estate documents clearly and effectively communicate your wishes.

Please call our main office at 908-454-3200 to schedule a consultation, or you can reach us online with any questions you may have.