What should be included in a comprehensive estate plan? (Continued)
April 22, 2019
In last week’s article, I discussed the need for additional documents that complement a living trust when building a robust, comprehensive estate plan. These documents include a will, beneficiary designations, letter of intent, durable power of attorney, healthcare power of attorney, and guardianship designations. Today, I will discuss the durable power of attorney, healthcare power of attorney, and guardianship designations, concluding our conversation about documents that should be considered when developing a thorough estate plan.
The durable power of attorney designates an agent to make financial decisions on your behalf. This power can be set up as a springing power, meaning it “springs” into place when necessary. An example of when an agent might need to exercise this power on your behalf is if you become incapacitated or suffer mental illness. Absent this document, a court proceeding would be required to designate a person to make these decisions for you without your guidance (since you are unable to provide input).
Unfortunately, there may be times that difficult healthcare decisions need to be made for you. The healthcare power of attorney gives an agent the right to make important healthcare and treatment decisions when you are unable to do so. It is important to have a candid conversation with the person(s) you select as your agent(s) to ensure your wishes and desires are properly carried out if required. Topics like life support and organ donation are examples of the types of decisions that need to be discussed to ensure the agent acts in accordance with your desires. Most married couples name their spouse as their agent. It is important to name a contingent agent, in case something happens to you and your spouse at the same time (e.g. – a car accident).
A robust trust or will should include instructions regarding the care of minor children when applicable. This helps prevent the need for a court to step in and designate who the legal guardian(s) will be of minors under your care when you become unable to provide the care yourself. It is important to identify an individual or family unit that is willing to step into this role, shares your values and views, and will have the financial means to provide adequate care. With all agent designations, a contingent (back-up) guardian should be identified in case the first selected party is unable or unwilling to serve in the capacity you have requested.
If you need assistance with these documents, or simply want to review them, your Polaris Greystone Financial Group (PGFG) Wealth Advisor is ready to review your estate plan with you. When necessary, we can introduce you to an attorney from our network to assist with legal document creation or updates. By taking care of these steps now, your family and financial affairs will be well cared for, even if you do not have the capacity to do it yourself.
Jeremy Witbeck, CFA®, CFP®, Partner
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