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Guide to Legal Documents for Seniors

As you get older, it gets more important than ever to create a plan of what will happen to you and your assets if you were to pass away. It isn’t something any of us like to think about, but it is a necessity, not only to protect yourself, but your family members.

There are several things you need to think about implementing, including a living will, a living trust, a last will, and a financial and medical power of attorney. We will go through these, explaining what they are and how to get one set up.

Living Will

What Is a Living Will?

A living will is a document that outlines how a person wants their end-of-life medical care to be handled, should they be unable to express their wishes. This typically will refer to if they want to be put on life support or not if the situation arises. Other instances are treatments that will result in death if not administered. They are meant to speak for you if you are unable to speak for yourself.

How Does It Work?

In order to set up a living will, you will need to meet with a professional who handles wills on a regular basis. You will go over your wishes for your end-of-life medical care, and he or she will compile all of the information into your living will. It is important to make sure that you don’t use dated medical language, as it can be too narrow when applied to modern medical advances. Be sure to check with your state, as some states put a limit on what you can cover in a living will.

How Do You Set a Living Will Up?

An attorney would be more than happy to help you get your living will set up. There are also some options if you would rather do it yourself. You can get estate planning software, and create it online. However, make sure that it is from a reputable company, and it includes everything you need when creating your living will. There are also many books that will guide you through drafting a living will. It is wise to create an electronic version as well, in case the hard copy is ever lost or destroyed.

Living Trust

What Is a Living Trust?

A living trust is a very effective way to handle your estate after you pass away. The main plus of a living trust is that it doesn’t have to go through probate court, and it quickly distributes your assets after your death. It is being used more and more by individuals and families of all income levels. A living trust is private, versus a will, which is public record. It gives you peace of mind that your exact wishes will be followed.

How Does It Work?

A living trust is funded by your assets throughout your lifetime. This includes bank accounts, stocks, bonds, property, and more. You will appoint a successor trustee, who will act as the executor of your will would. He or she will distribute all of your assets to the appropriate people quickly, as you don’t have to wait for them to go through probate.

How Do You Set a Living Trust Up?

You can use either an instruction book or software program to help you set up your living trust, but you can also get the help of an attorney. If you have any questions, seek an attorney’s help to make sure you are setting it up correctly. There is crucial paperwork you will have to fill out, such as if you want to leave your house through your living trust. The paperwork can be a little tedious, but it is worth it to make sure that your wishes are 100% carried out.

Last Will and Testament

What Is a Last Will and Testament?

A last will and testament dictates what happens to a person’s possessions and dependents upon his or her death. It is a legal document, and it is public record. A last will and testament will lay out what to do with their possessions and who gets custody of their dependents.

How Does It Work?

After you write a last will and testament, you will name a person to be the “executor” of the estate. The executor will be responsible for administering your estate upon your death. They are usually supervised by a probate court. If a person dies without a last will and testament, their belongings become property of the state. The state will dictate what goes to who, with no consideration of an individual’s circumstances.

How Do You Set a Last Will and Testament Up?

Your will must meet the state’s rules and regulations, so it’s important that you set it up correctly. Otherwise, it’s like you never had a will at all. It’s best to have an attorney draw up your will for you. Or, if you are insistent of writing it yourself, get an attorney to look over it to make sure it will hold up in court.

Financial and Medical Power of Attorney

What Is Financial and Medical Power of Attorney?

Power of attorney is when you grant another person the power to carry out your wishes. There is one to handle your finances and property, and another to handle your medical wishes. Financial power of attorney is when you appoint someone to manage your financial affairs, such as banking transactions, insurance transactions, distribution of assets, and more. With medical power of attorney, you are giving someone the authority to make decisions about your health care, should you be unable to make them yourself. This does not carry over into decisions about end of life care. That lies solely in your living will.

How Does It Work?

When you sign a power of attorney, you are giving another person permission to act on your behalf and make decisions for you. Most power of attorneys give the agent the power to do almost everything you can do. If you become incapacitated or unable to logically make decisions about your estate or health, your agent will make those decisions for you, based on your wishes.

How Do You Set Financial and Medical Power of Attorney Up?

A power of attorney is a legal document that grants certain powers to another person, who will be your agent or attorney-in-fact. The person creating the power of attorney must have the mental capacity to understand the powers he is giving to his agent, and he can’t be forced or tricked into signing. In most states, you have to have two people and a notary to witness the signing of the power of attorney.

Which One Should I Get?

If you are able to, it is advisable to get all of them. By getting a living will, living trust, last will and testament, and power of attorney, you are ensuring that you will be taken care of, and your final wishes will be respected. If you have any questions about any of them or need help with creating them, contact your attorney. They will be more than happy to help.


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