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Four Legal Documents That Everyone Needs

By: H. Malcolm Pippin


Last Will and Testament:  A Last Will and Testament not only provides who receives your assets upon your death, it also more importantly provides for the guardians of your children should you die while any of your children are minors. Even though most of us recognize the need for having a Last Will and Testament, more than half of us do not have one. The excuses for not having one go from putting it off to a deep-rooted fear of death. Of course, not having a Last Will and Testament is not going to prevent the inevitable from happening. The only difference is whether you will have taken care of your assets and family properly after you are gone. Dying without a will, which is called “intestate,” can have tragic consequences which can be avoided by having even the most basic of wills prepared.

Just as important as preparing the Will is keeping you Will updated based upon changes in your life. We recommend that you should always review your Will to see if it needs updating when certain key changes take place, including:

·         Changes to your family or loved ones, such as the birth of grandchildren, a divorce or a marriage, the coming of age of children, and death of a family member.

·         Changes in assets, such as properties, businesses, or retirement plans.

·         Acquisition of heirlooms

·         Changes in your life and / or  in your children’s lives that may affect who you have named to serve as Guardian of any minor children of yours upon your death;

·         Changes in estate and tax law so you can ensure that you and your heirs are able to get the most out of your Will.

·         Changes in personal circumstances. You might want to include specific wishes on your funeral for example. Or perhaps you want to change the executor of your Will to reflect changes in relationships.

Advanced Directive : Sometimes referred to as a Living Will, this legal document allows you to  control whether you want, in the event your treating physician indicates that your condition is terminal, to be kept alive by life sustaining equipment, nutrition and hydration. After you prepare this document it is wise to provide a copy to your treating physician, local hospital, and loved ones so that they know of your wishes. Simply put, it does no good unless your loved ones and medical professionals are aware of your wishes.

Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care:  This document allows you to appoint others to make health care related decisions on your behalf, if you are unable to do so yourself. For example, if you are in a car accident, are elderly and perhaps have dementia or simply are not thinking clearly. Typically clients appoint their spouses, children or loved one as their agents, but anyone can serve. Again, like the Advanced Directive discussed above, after you prepare this document it is wise to provide a copy to your treating physician, local hospital, and loved ones so they know of your wishes.

Durable Power of Attorney for Financial:  This document allows others to act on your behalf regarding financial and legal matters. For example, let’s say, God forbid, you are in a terrible car accident and remain in the hospital for months on end. Who pays your bills? Who signs your tax returns? Who signs other legal documents?  There are two kinds – a general power of attorney and a “springing” power of attorney that only becomes effective if you are medically certified as being incapable of managing your personal and business affairs.  Your legal advisor can explain the differences in more depth. As with the other documents mentioned herein, this document is crucial to protect you and your loved ones in the event you can no longer manage your personal or business affairs.

The Pippin Law firm has several attorneys that practice in the estate planning arena. Feel free to call the office at 701-572-5544 if you have any questions or would like to schedule a consultation with any of our estate planning attorneys.

This article is only intended to provide general information and does in any way constitute legal advice. Please contact your legal professional to assist you in these matters.