What keeps you up at night? Security in Estate Planning

Estate Planning

I have a husband, three kids, and two pets.  I love all of them and I want to do everything I can to keep them healthy and safe.  I buy organic food.  We drink filtered water.  We wear sunscreen.  We avoid BPA, the chemical used to make certain plastic products.  When purchasing personal care products, I try to choose ingredients and formulations that are not harmful to our health.  I’ve read up about clean beauty, and I try to avoid endocrine disruptors.  I look for non-toxic home cleaning products for my kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room.  I avoid harmful pet products and I use lawn products that are safe for pets.

We keep a baseball bat by the door.  We have a watchdog.  We have a home alarm system. I have a taser.  And bear spray.  Earlier this year I attended a women only shooting event where we learned self-defense and how to safely use handguns and pepper spray.

All that said, the most important thing that I have done to keep my family safe is my estate plan.  Specifically, my incapacity plan.  Most people think that an estate plan is a bunch of legal documents that say what will happen to your stuff when you die.  This is true.  But to me, the most important part of the estate plan is where you say what will happen if you don’t die.  Imagine this, you and your husband are in a terrible car crash on date night.  You are both in a coma.  Your last will and testament says who gets your assets and who will raise your children if you both die.  But who takes care of them if you are alive, but in the hospital, incapable of making decisions?  And who is authorized to take control of your financial and medical decisions until you are able to do so yourself? There are three basic legal documents that typically make up the incapacity plan – the living will, the HIPAA Authorization, and the Power of Attorney.  If you are looking for the best Montana estate planning lawyer, you’ll want someone with experience. It may be in your best interest to contact an experienced Montana estate planning attorney to discuss the particulars of your specific situation.

The living will is a legal document that gives the person you select the authority to make life-sustaining and life–ending decisions for you if you become incapacitated.  The HIPAA Authorization gives your doctor or other health care provider the authority to disclose your medical information to the person you select.   Remember Terri Schiavo.  Terri’s husband argued that Terri would not have wanted prolonged artificial life support and elected to remove her feeding tube.  Terri’s parents argued in favor of continuing artificial nutrition and hydration.  The highly publicized and prolonged series of legal challenges presented by her parents caused a seven-year delay before Terri’s feeding tube was ultimately removed.  A HIPAA Authorization and a living will that clearly expresses your wishes could help you and your loved ones avoid a situation like the Schiavo case.

The Financial Power of Attorney is a legal document where you give someone else the authority to make financial decisions for you.  For example, you could give them the authority to pay your bills, manage your investments, file your tax returns, mortgage and sell your real estate, and address other financial matters that are described in the document.  Financial Powers of Attorney come in two forms: “Durable” and “Springing.”  A Durable Power of Attorney goes into effect as soon as it is signed, whereas a Springing Power of Attorney only goes into effect after your are determined to be mentally incapacitated.

The key to remember is that your incapacity plan must be in place before you are incapacitated.  So, don’t delay!  Before heading out on date night, protect your family and get these legal documents properly drafted and signed.  It is worth it.

Matrium Law Group PLLCThanks to our friend and blog author, Lili Panarella of Matrium Law Group PLLC for her insight into the estate planning practice.