Health care directives, or living wills, made major headlines during the Terri Schiavo case and many people talked about the need for such documents. But as the topic has faded from the headlines, it has also faded from our minds. A health care directive allows you to express your wishes and make decisions on medical issues if you are unable to communicate with your doctors. You can also appoint an agent to make these decisions for you. Even though the subject matter may be difficult, getting a health care directive is really simple. What excuse do you have for putting it off?
Imagine for a moment that you have just died suddenly. Your grieving loved ones are in complete shock. When it comes time to “get down to business” they are still having a difficult time accepting the fact you are gone. They come to your house looking for a will. They think you might have one, but don’t know for sure. Will they be able to find one? Through their tears, they rifle through your important looking papers. They are trying to figure out what assets you owned, what debts you have, and where everything is located. How long will it tack them to track everything down? As they inventory your personal property, they wonder what they are supposed to do with it. Who would you want to receive your treasured book collection?
Unfortunately, this scene is all to common for many families. Do your loved ones a favor – let them know whether or not you have a will (you really should) and where it is. Let them know where your important documents are kept. Do whatever you can to keep your papers organized. Consider preparing an Estate Organizer. Each of my estate planing clients receives one – a workbook where they can provide information on the important people and professionals who should be contacted, the identification and location of assets, debts, and important paperwork, instructions for personal property, and a list of all of those memberships and internet accounts you might want cancelled upon your death.
Taking the time now to organize can save your family a lot of time and tears later.
When we talk about estate planning we are generally talking about the business of transferring property and money upon death. However, our most valuable assets often have nothing to do with trust funds or dollar signs. Things such as family history; life lessons; personal values; old photographs, journals, or poems – these are the things that mean the most to us, and to our families. Unless you plan ahead, there is a very good chance these things will be lost upon your death.
One way to preserve these things is by preparing an “ethical will” or “legacy letter.” This is not a legal document or will in the normal sense of the word. But it is a way for you to organize your thoughts and feelings and share them with your loved ones after you are gone. For a great resource on ethical wills check out: http://ethicalwill.com/
While not everyone needs a will, most people could benefit from a will. You could use a will if:
- You would not want your property divided according to your state’s intestacy laws
- You would want to leave something to a person not recognized by your state’s intestacy laws (a non-marital partner, a stepchild, a best friend)
- You or your spouse have children from another relationship
- You have minor children and would like to designate a guardian to care for them
- You have a beneficiary with special needs
- You have specific wishes regarding how your assets are distributed
- You would like to leave something to a charity.
- You would like to establish some sort of trust upon your death
- You have a substantial estate and could benefit from tax planning
If you need a will, Monticello based Minnesota Estate Planning Attorney Jennifer R. Lewis Kannegieter provides a variety of estate planning services for clients throughout the Twin Cities and Central Minnesota. Contact Jennifer today.