I am young and single, do I need estate planning?: Yes, even if you are unconcerned about passing on your money, some estate planning is necessary. The two main documents you will need are a power of attorney for healthcare and a power of attorney for finances.
Why have these documents?: If you are injured, and unable to say what you want, there may be nobody who has the right to make healthcare decisions for you. To make these decisions, your family may have to ask a court to appoint a Guardian to make decisions for you. Seeking a guardianship is a costly, time-consuming, and stressful matter. Therefore, whether you are single or married, poor or rich, executing power of attorney documents today is important to protect yourself and those you care about in the future.
What is a Power of Attorney for Finances?: A Power of Attorney for Finances and Property is a document in which you (the “principal”) name another individual (the "agent") to manage your finances and property. You determine the money and property you want the agent to have authority over, as well as the authority you want the agent to have. The authority can be broad or specific, depending on your preference. A power of attorney for finances may be “durable,” meaning that your agent may manage your finances in the event of incapacity or incompetence
What is a Power of Attorney for Healthcare?: A Power of Attorney for Healthcare is a different document, in which you (the “principal”) name another individual (the “agent”) to make healthcare decisions for you if you lack capacity to do so yourself. You may indicate your expectations for your end-of-life care or nursing home care within the document. A Power of Attorney for Healthcare or a guardianship is required if you want to allow someone the authority to place you in a nursing home or other long-term-care facility.
How do I get a Power of Attorney for Healthcare?: You can get a standard form Power of Attorney for Healthcare at http://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/forms/advdirectives/F00085.pdf . This form is simple to fill out and must only be signed by two witnesses who do not have an interest in your property if you were to pass away. While this form will suffice for younger individuals, it is suggested that you have an attorney draft the form to provide for how decisions should be made in specific situations, including dealing with dementia, religious requirements, comas, and mental illnesses. Some religious bodies have created their own Power of Attorney forms; for example, the Wisconsin Catholic Conference has an addendum available here: http://www.wisconsincatholic.org/addenda.cfm. If you have any knowledge of addendums or power of attorney documents from other religious bodies, please feel free to tell us in the comments.
Further, please do not simply fill out a Power of Attorney for healthcare document on your own if you do not feel you understand the document. Please call me at (262) 902-0595 or email email@example.com with any questions. I am happy to provide a free conference to assure that a health care power of attorney is appropriately filled out.
How about getting the Power of Attorney for Finances?: I do not generally suggest that individuals fill out their own power of attorney for finances. Unlike the power of attorney for healthcare, the power of attorney for finances must often be modified to your individual situation. Examples include who the agent should provide accountings to of your money; whether there are certain investments that should be held or sold; whether the agent may give any money to themselves; and what gifts should be provided, to whom, and when. For this reason, it is important that you have an opportunity to discuss the powers that you are giving to the agent with an experienced attorney.
This has just been a brief glimpse of the estate planning that many individuals need. For more information, please feel free to call Attorney Heller-Neal at (262) 902-0595 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Derrick Heller-Neal is a solo lawyer located in Racine, Wisconsin.