Although the concept of the living will has been around for decades, there are still many misconceptions when it comes to this legal document.
Sometimes referred to as an “advanced healthcare directive“, a living will permits you to express your wishes and instructions for healthcare and healthcare directions when you are incompetent and are in an end stage medical condition or are permanently unconscious. It is not the same as your last will and testament, which permits you to control the disposition of your assets after your death. Nor does a living will address decision making in your day-to-day medical care if you become incompetent.
You can create a living will if you are of sound mind and one of the following applies:
– 18 years of age or older
– A high school graduate
– An emancipated minor
To be valid, a living must be signed and dated by you, and witnessed by two individuals, each of whom is 18 years of age or older.
Your living will goes into effect when a copy of it is provided to your attending physician, and the attending physician determines you to be incompetent and to have an end stage medical condition or to be permanently unconscious. Once made, your living will is valid, notwithstanding the passage of time, until you revoke it.
A significant benefit of making a living will is that it removes any ambiguity as to your wishes if you are in an end stage medical condition or a permanent coma. This can be helpful to your love ones, especially your children, in removing the burden of making a life and death decision for a parent.
“If your parent or grandparent has to go into a nursing home, we help protect their nest egg,” he says. “There are ways to do that if you properly plan for it.
“If a loved one dies, we help you administer their estate if you’re appointed as the executor. Or if they haven’t done a proper power of attorney, sometimes it’s necessary for us to petition the court to have you or another family member appointed guardian.”
Wills and trusts are binding legal documents, but that doesn’t mean they’re written in stone. They can be altered as the circumstances in your life change. In this blog post, we will review why you may need to update your will, living will or trust.
1. Marriage or divorce
If you’ve just gotten married, you’ll want to determine what portion of your assets should go to your spouse following your death.
If this is a second marriage or you have children from a previous relationship, you may need to consult with an estate planning attorney on how to provide for all your loved ones.
And although getting divorced usually cuts your spouse out of your will, you’ll still need to determine other matters, especially if your will had called for them to serve as your executor or guardian of your children.
If your child has reached the teenage years, you may already feel as though you are losing control of her life. This is legally true once your child reaches the age of 18 because then the state considers your child to be an adult with the legal right to govern his or her own life.
Up until your child reaches 18, you are absolutely entitled to access your child’s medical records and to make decisions regarding the course of his treatment. And, your child’s financial affairs are your financial affairs. This changes once your child reaches the age of 18 because your now-adult child is legally entitled to his privacy and you no longer have the same level of access to or authority over his financial, educational and medical information.
As long as all is well, this can be fine. However, it’s important to plan for the unexpected and for your child to set up an estate plan, with the assistance of an estate planning attorney in Bucks County, that at least includes the following three crucial components:
When actress Audrey Hepburn died in 1993, she owned a storage locker containing memorabilia of her career – costumes, photos, awards, scripts, posters and the like. In her will, she directed that the contents be divided equally between her two sons.
But some 23 years later, the two sons (who had different fathers) still can’t agree on how to divide the goods. The older son, who is now in his mid-fifties, has filed a lawsuit and asked a judge to split the possessions.
A Codicil is a legal document that changes specific provisions of your Last Will and Testament but leaves all of the other provisions unchanged. As long as you are mentally competent, you can change, modify, update, or completely revoke your Last Will and Testament at any time. The question becomes, should you make a Codicil or should you rewrite your entire Will?
If an estate plan isn’t kept current, it can become useless. You should always make sure your will is up to date with your wishes, your financial circumstances, and current tax and other laws.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that changing a will is not a “do-it-yourself” process. Generally, any changes to your will must be made with the same formalities as the will itself, including witnesses and signatures.
Seniors who are relying on Medicaid to help pay for expensive nursing home care need to plan carefully for the possibility that their spouse will pass away before they do.
Unlike Medicare, not all seniors are eligible for Medicaid. Medicaid is designed for people with limited income and assets, and to be eligible, you must meet strict financial guidelines. Many people have to spend down their assets to almost nothing and/or exhaust their long-term care insurance before they become eligible.
Of course, this is a problem if a senior is married and his or her spouse does not need nursing home care. It would mean that the spouse would have to be reduced to living in poverty before the senior could be eligible for benefits.
To avoid this problem, most states allow the spouse of a Medicaid recipient to keep a fairly generous amount of assets to live on. Many also allow the spouse to continue to receive some income without having to contribute to the senior’s nursing home costs.
But what happens if the spouse dies before the nursing home resident?
As we live through the latest winter storms to strike our area, we often think about how this is affecting our aging parents. Most of us call to ask if they are okay, check on them, bring them groceries and shovel their snow. As caring children and family members, we worry about their safety and well-being. After all, they raised us and gave us a significant part of their lives. In the same way, we should make certain that our parents’ social and financial matters are in order. Sometimes we begin to notice that they may need more help. Seniors may often begin to neglect proper management of their finances or tend to ignore any warning signs regarding their health or well-being. This often becomes a good time to start a conversation with your parents to discuss how they might benefit from assistance from family members. This is also the situation where an effective elder law attorney can be a valuable partner.
Without an estate plan, attorneys, or the courts, may decide the fate of your assets.
Even if you have a modest estate, it’s important that you know the basics of estate planning, as well as get expert assistance in making plans. Young or old, wealthy or not so much, you can make life easier on your loved ones during a time of grief by being proactive. For this reason, we advise you to start the estate planning process as early as possible.
What can you do now to ensure that your assets go to the people you choose, not those the state chooses, or that your affairs will be taken care of as you wish if you become incapacitated?