Whatever the reason, reviewing your estate plan with a knowledgeable Johnstown estate planning attorney should be an important to-do in the new year.
The Will as the Start of your Estate Plan
For many, creating or updating an estate plan starts and ends with a last will and testament. Wills get the most attention as a mandatory part of an estate plan thanks to books, television, and film. Even someone with little knowledge of legal works understands the concept of a will.
At its core, a will allows an individual to spell out exactly how their estate should be handled upon their passing. If the individual has specific instructions they want to be followed about who gets what, they can record it in their will so that it’s clear where every asset should go.
Also having a will can be vital to ensure asset distribution due to probate concerns. Assets must be distributed according to the laws of their home state, and if an individual passes before creating a will, the heirs can be at the mercy of the probate process in which assets may go to unintended beneficiaries.
One key factor about creating and updating wills rests with the concept that you have the ability to change or update the terms outlined in the will whenever you wish. In other words, none of the details listed in a will ever get carved in stone. Life changes and a will can and should be changed to address new circumstances – marriage, divorce, new grandchildren, stepchildren, death of beneficiaries, or accumulation of new assets to name a few.
However, the will is only one tool you have to create a plan that reflects your wishes. In Pennsylvania, a good Johnstown estate planning attorney, like attorney Dan Hill, will advise you on the other important items you should consider including in a quality estate plan.
Power of Attorney
Think of the power of attorney like a general choosing his dependable right-hand person to step up and lead should anything sideline the general.
The power of attorney is a document that allows you to assign decision-making power to a trusted person when you become incapacitated temporarily due to illness or some other unfortunate circumstance.
While incapacitated, your household and business may require management. The power of attorney may allow the chosen party to act on your behalf such as handle bank accounts, sign checks, sell property, or file taxes for you. You will outline what powers you wish to give.
If you already have a power of attorney, updating it allows you to select a new custodian due to changes in relationships and circumstances. Used with wills, the power of attorney adds another layer of security around an individual’s wishes regarding their assets.
Creating or Updating a Living Will
Sometimes referred to as the Advanced Medical Directive, a Living Will helps an individual to legally state their wishes regarding medical treatment.
As the name suggests, a living will applies while you are alive and takes into consideration your desires regarding life-sustaining medical treatment. And like the power of attorney, a living will get activated when the individual suffers an event that renders them unable to make important medical decisions. More specifically, the living will often spell out your wishes regarding medical treatment should they enter a state of prolonged unconsciousness, up to and including wishes regarding their final life medical decisions. It assists your loved ones to know what to do at a difficult time.
All three tools grant you a wider range of control over your life and death. To learn more about estate planning, wills, powers of attorney, and living wills, contact Dan Hill of The Hill Group at (814) 245-3832 or use our online contact form.