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Wills and Powers of Attorney – Why You Need Both

16 August 2023

I think it’s time we talked about estate planning. Because no matter how old or young you are, you have a legacy – and at least some tangible property.

A will is a legally binding document that allows you to determine how your estate will be handled upon your death. Without a will, there is no guarantee that your desires will be carried out. A will minimizes family conflict by determining the who, what and when of your estate after your passing.

You need a will if there is anything you especially want a given loved one to have. How else can you make sure that, when you die, your best friend Johnny will get the baseball you pitched and he caught for the last out of that unforgettable Little League game?

If you want assets distributed in personal and specific ways, the best way to ensure this is to have a will in place.

Having a will means:

  • You can choose your executor and how your estate will be handled.
  • You can choose what bequests to leave to whom – what friend gets which keepsake, making sure that if one of your children loves a particular family heirloom more than the other(s), that they receive it, that the charities you’ve supported get a final contribution.
  • You can designate a guardian for minor children (make sure the designee is with you on this), or someone to make that choice for your family.
  • Your family will breathe easier knowing you’ve taken care of them.
  • You avoid dying intestate, placing your estate in the hands of the courts, and a court-appointed executor to distribute according to state law, which process places potentially significant monetary charges upon your estate.

But even if you have had your will drafted, signed, and put in place, you may not be done. Life events can trigger changes.

Review your will periodically, and update as appropriate. Here are some examples of events that could warrant you updating your will:

  • The death of a family member or other loved one – whether they are among your listed heirs or not, as the death of someone close often reorders our priorities
  • Marriage
  • Divorce
  • The birth of a child
  • A significant change in your personal net worth
  • The purchase or sale of your business

Hand in hand with wills go powers of attorney. For married couples, usually the power will be issued to the spouse.

You (and your spouse, if you are married) should each have two different powers of attorney:

  • Durable Power of Attorney – this allows a trusted individual of your choice to make decisions, financial, legal, etc., for you. To act on your behalf and in your best interests, as communicated to them by you. This power of attorney can be immediately effective, or set up with a triggering event, such as your incapacity (due to any cause).
  • Medical Power of Attorney – this allows a trusted individual to make decisions about your medical care if you are unable to make, or to communicate them, yourself.

If you are married, most states allow a spouse to make medical decisions without a power of attorney, but what if you are divorced, or never married? What if you have a significant other and are not married? Would your choice of healthcare decision-maker be allowed to take over for you if there is not a power of attorney giving them that authority? Almost certainly not, so, no matter whom you choose, be safe and get that medical power of attorney in place.

If your financial planner is on his or her toes, s/he will ask to review your will and powers of attorneys, to ensure they are aligned with your life as it is at present and will remind you to update them when you make significant life changes.

Remember that having your will and powers of attorney in place is a way you can exert control over how your affairs are handled, as well as providing a road map for the handling of your care, your interests, and, finally, your assets.

Not a single one of us can live forever – it’s kind to leave your family and loved ones with the knowledge that they are protected, and will continue to be protected, by your choices and by your wisdom and love.

When was the last time you reviewed your will and powers of attorney?

If you are unsure whether your will needs updating, please consult with our financial and estate advisors – we are here for you!

Please click here to email us directly – let us know how we can help you.

Until next time –



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