Preparing For Your Future & Protecting Your Assets
Article by Katie Fagan
Article Date: 5/12/2010 4:24:34 PM
This article will discuss three legal documents that each person should consider and the reasons why everyone needs them.
By Pandora E. Palmer and Katie Fagan
Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.--Alexander Graham Bell
In this day and time, considering the current economy, everyone should consider how to best prepare for the future, since no one knows what it may hold. This article will discuss three legal documents that each person should consider and the reasons why everyone needs them.
First is a Financial Power of Attorney, which appoints another person as your “attorney-in-fact,” which allows them to make financial decisions in the same manner you would. However, the Power of Attorney can be limited to only the powers you specify. For example, a Power of Attorney can give the holder the power to do your banking (deposits and withdrawals), buy or sell all types of property, file taxes on your behalf, make payments on items you previously purchased, or run your business.
The second document everyone should consider is an Advance Directive for Health Care, which replaced two documents: the Living Will and the Health Care Power of Attorney. (If you previously executed a Living Will, it is still valid, and does not need to be replaced unless your wishes have changed.) An Advance Directive details what you want done medically in the event you are unable to make the decision yourself. The Advance Directive allows you to appoint a person (or persons) to speak on your behalf, allows you to state whether you would like life support (such as nourishment or water), and allows you to designate the final disposition of your body. An Advance Directive is important because it allows you to “speak” through another person at a very critical time, when you otherwise would not able to do so.
The third document everyone should consider is a will. Without a will, you cannot be sure of who will receive your property upon your passing. This is because a will is a “roadmap” of how you want your property to be distributed. Without it, your administrator must follow specific state laws about whom to give your property to. Additionally, your Financial Power of Attorney is automatically revoked by your death. Other benefits of a will include the ability to designate who the guardian of your minor children will be, and if you do not want your children to receive their entire inheritance at once, you can specify one age, or several different ages, for distribution. For example, instead of receiving their entire inheritance at age eighteen, which is the State of Georgia’s default age, you can specify that they receive 25% at age twenty-one, 25% at age twenty-six, and the remaining 50% at age 30. Other benefits are that, with a will, you can leave your property to a charity or to your step-children, which is not possible without a will. Keep in mind, though, that some property will not even need to be addressed in your will. Life insurance policies, retirement plans with designated beneficiaries, property held in trust, and property held as joint tenants with rights of survivorship will all go to the person designated in the policy, trust document, or deed.
Pandora E. Palmer is a Partner with SWWW and specializes in Family, Criminal, Probate and Juvenile Law. Katie Fagan is an associate with SWWW and specializes in Family and Probate Law. If you have any questions or comments, you can reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Keywords: Financial, Attorney, Power, Health, Care, Directive, Will, Pandora, Palmer, Katie, Fagan
Katie Fagan is a member of the Georgia Bar Association, the Henry County Bar Association, and the Georgia Association of Women Lawyers. Katie practices in the McDonough, Georgia office and her practice areas include Family Law and Estate Planning.