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Horizon Elder Law & Estate Planning Blog

Friday, October 4, 2019

Do You Have These Five End-of-Life Documents?

Discussing issues related to end-of-life health care, personal care, and property protection can be emotional and stressful. However, conversations related to these issues are necessary to protect the individual and the family. Without certain end-of-life documents, the state or the courts may step in to make personal decisions for you and your family members. A California elder law attorney can help you develop a plan that addresses end-of-life matters in a manner that you choose instead of allowing the state or a judge to choose for you.

Five Essential End-of-Life Documents

1.  Last Will and Testament

A will is one of the crucial elder planning documents that every person should execute. Even if you have a comprehensive estate plan that includes other estate planning documents, you need a will to ensure that none of your property is subject to California’s intestate laws. If you do not have a will when you die, the state decides for you how your property is distributed and who can receive your property. Keep in mind that the state does not recognize friends and charities as heirs under intestate law.

2.  Durable Power of Attorney

A financial power of attorney gives another person the legal authority to transact financial matters in your name. A power of attorney can allow another person to:

  • Sell and purchase real estate and personal property
  • Open and close bank accounts, stock accounts, and other financial accounts
  • Incur debt, including mortgages and personal loans
  • Pay bills and debts
  • File and settle lawsuits and other legal matters

Unless the powers are restricted, your agent can perform any financial transactions in your name that you are legally entitled to do yourself. The “durable” portion of a power of attorney continues the authority to act on your behalf even though you may become incapacitated for any reason. Therefore, a Durable Power of Attorney can be very useful in avoiding state-appointed guardians or conservators.

3.  Medical Directives and Health Care Power of Attorney

Medical directives help you remain in control of your health care decisions, even though you cannot speak for yourself. With a Living Will or Health Care Directive, you can make known your desires regarding end-of-life care and life-prolonging medical treatments. You can also appoint an agent to enforce these decisions on your behalf if you are unable to speak for yourself. A Health Care Power of Attorneys gives another person the authority to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to speak for yourself.

4.  Beneficiary Designations

Some property you own may pass directly to an heir without going through probate. These assets have written beneficiary designations naming the person or party who receives the asset upon your death. If you fail to designate a beneficiary, the asset is transferred to your probate estate upon your death and distributed according to your will or the state’s intestate laws, if you do not have a will.

5. Trust Agreements

Trust agreements are separate entities that hold title to a property. As the grantor, you design the trust to meet your needs and goals for asset protection, tax planning, probate avoidance, inheritance, charitable giving, and special needs planning. There are many different types of trust agreements that you may use to accomplish a variety of end-of-life matters, including revocable living trusts, life insurance trusts, pet trusts, charitable trusts, special needs trusts, IRA trusts, and irrevocable trusts. An attorney can help you choose which trust agreement addresses your desires for end-of-life plans.

Contact a California Elder Law Attorney for More Information

End-of-life planning includes planning for probate, tax liabilities, incompetence, health matters, asset protection, health care decisions, long-term planning, and inheritances. Depending on your goals and needs, you may have other issues that you want to address. A California elder law attorney can review ways to address common issues related to end-of-life matters and discuss specific issues that are unique to you and your family. Schedule a consult with a California elder law attorney today.


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