By Jacob A. Weil, Esq., EA., The Weil Law Group, PA
Important components of every estate plan include a Living Will and Power of Attorney.
The Living Will
A living will is a document that lays out your wishes in the event you are suffering from a terminal condition, in a vegetative state, or are on life support with no medically reasonable chance of recovery. Do you want to be kept alive as long as possible, or do you want the doctors to “pull the plug”? You use a living will to lay out all of these decisions and nominate someone to advocate for those wishes for you.
Many people in Florida have heard about the case of Terri Schiavo, a Florida girl who suffered from a persistent vegetative state. The case went all the way to the supreme court and tore a family apart in determining how to proceed and whether she should be removed from life support. Living wills prevent such things from happening. Your family is not left guessing and fighting over what you would have wanted because it is clearly laid out. Moreover, you are able to ensure that you decide what happens to you instead of some judge you have never met.
Power of Attorney
A power of attorney, commonly called a POA, is a document granting the authority for another person to act on your behalf in making financial, legal, or other decisions. You can grant a person blanket power to act on your behalf (known as an unlimited POA) or you can limit the powers your agent has (known as limited POA). With a power of attorney document, you can give another person the authority to act on your behalf in a variety of events, including whether you have the capacity or are incapacitated.
Why do you need a power of attorney? Well, let’s say you become incapacitated. Who is going to manage your real estate? Who is going to manage your stocks and bonds? In the event you are injured by someone, who is going to maintain a lawsuit on your behalf? These are all actions a person granted a power of attorney can take.
However, with that said, it is very important to select your POA agent carefully. A power of attorney can be a dangerous document if it falls into the wrong hands. I always advise my clients that while they should let the power of attorney know the document exists and how to find it, not to give it to them unless it is needed for some reason. That way, in the event you are incapacitated, the agent can act by getting the document but does not have the power to act freely at any time.
So what do you want to ensure that you consider when you create an estate plan? It takes a good deal of thought but here are a few things you should probably think about: tax consequences of your estate, the total amount of assets available, those who rely on you (such as children, a spouse, other family, or pets and their needs), your wishes in a medical emergency, who will handle your affairs for you after something happens, your financial and familial goals, your wishes for your remains after you pass away. Each of these things can be handled by a well-made and well-thought-out estate plan.
Jacob A. Weil, Esq. is president, The Weil Law Group, P.A., Fort Lauderdale, a law firm specializing in estate planning, business, and tax matters. Jacob is an Enrolled Agent with the IRS, Member of The Florida Bar, Broward County Bar Association, and a mediator trained in conflict resolution.