Legal Documents: Will, Living Will, and Power of Attorney
Spring cleaning typically means tidying up your house and eliminating clutter. But do you have important legal documents in order?
We recommend preparing a will if you don’t already have one, updating your will if needed. It is also important to create a power of attorney and a living will.
Most people don’t like to think about what would happen if they died or became unable to make decisions about their finances or health. But a will, power of attorney, and living will are vital in those scenarios, and it’s wise to be prepared just in case.
Preparing a Will
A will is the most important part of estate planning. A will allows you to state how your assets should be divided and who should care for your children. You can name the person you want to carry out these wishes, known as the executor.
It’s important to note that Alabama law places some limits on your control over how property is distributed. For instance, a surviving spouse is always entitled to a share of the estate. A qualified estate planning lawyer can explain these limitations to you.
Alabama law requires that wills be written, signed, and witnessed by two people. While you can draft your own will, it’s best to hire a lawyer.
Updating Your Will
There are several options for updating your will depending on what types of revisions are needed.
You can make small changes to your will, like updating the name of a beneficiary who has gotten married, by using a codicil. A codicil is a secondary document attached to your original will. It needs to be prepared and signed according to the same rules that apply to wills.
Writing a New Will
If you’re making substantial changes like changing your beneficiaries, revoking your old will and drafting a new one is the best option.
Power of Attorney
A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document giving another person (usually a trusted family member or friend) the power to act for you. You can grant this person general power of attorney to handle all affairs or specify what matters the agent has authority to make decisions about (limited power of attorney).
A conventional power of attorney agreement doesn’t remain in effect if you lose the ability to make decisions for yourself. A durable power of attorney (DPOA) does.
A durable power of attorney is commonly used to plan for long-term care as you age. There are two types of durable power of attorney:
Healthcare Power of Attorney
You must sign a durable power of attorney for health care, or healthcare power of attorney (HCPA), if you want to give someone the right to make health-related decisions. This document is also called a healthcare proxy.
Financial Power of Attorney
Another type of durable power of attorney is financial power of attorney. This allows someone to manage your financial affairs if you are unable to understand or make decisions.
Durable vs. Springing Power of Attorney
A durable power of attorney goes into effect as soon as you sign it and remains in place even if you are incapacitated.
A springing power of attorney gives the person you appoint POA privileges only if and when you are incapacitated. This is beneficial if you want to be prepared in case of an unexpected health emergency.
A family law attorney can guide you through the process of established power of attorney.
If someone is dying and can’t communicate what their wishes are regarding end-of-life medical care, family members can be forced into making difficult and painful decisions.
A living will, also called a directive to physicians or advance directive, spells out what medical treatment you do or do not want used to keep you alive. It gives guidance to medical professionals and your family if you can’t express your wishes. This prevents disagreements over your treatment in times of grief and crisis.
A living will is used for individuals near the end of life or those who have a terminal illness, but healthy people should also consider making one. Unexpected accidents can happen at any age.
Hare, Wynn, Newell & Newton
At Hare, Wynn, Newell & Newton, we are dedicated to serving our clients’ legal needs. We handle a variety of cases and have a national reputation for excellence. Our Birmingham personal injury law firm has been in business for over 130 years. If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of negligence, contact us today.