Life Changing Docs & Why You Should Never Be Without Them!
(Power of attorney, durable power of attorney, living will, will, trust, and more!)
Jennifer Romero is passionate about sharing the importance of having documents in place that give a person the freedom to make decisions in the financial and medical realm should life take an unexpected turn. In 2017, Rosie had an accident that rendered him unconscious for the better part of 3 months and at times, close to death. Fortunately, Rosie and Jennifer had the necessary documentation to let Jennifer step in and make financial and medical decisions. Jennifer was able to protect Rosie from an inept doctor (he was fired from the hospital shortly after his technique was revealed). She was also able to complete a real estate transaction and as a signer on the business account, she was able to keep the business current.
Without those documents, it would have been a whole different story!
With the help of Phocus Law, a sister company of Rosie-Certified Partner, Phocus Insurance Services, let’s look at the documents that everyone should have in place. We can divide them into two simple categories; the documents needed while we are alive and the documents needed once we graduate from this life.
1. Important Docs While You Are Living | (Creation to Passing)
We highly recommend seeking legal counsel and making sure that the documentation you sign or create are verifiable and effective should you need them. It will likely cost a bit but, the savings in time and emotional stress can be invaluable. The documents listed are official documents and must be signed and notarized to be valid.
Durable Power of Attorney – DPOA | (for financial affairs):
This document allows you to designate a responsible party, a fiduciary or agent, to stand in your stead. This would be needed in the event of a
person being unable to make decisions due to any number of circumstances. It could be something simple like being out of town and needing someone to pay a bill that slipped your mind, or it could be for more serious situations like illness or death.
*If you need to access a bank account, credit card company, insurance provider , etc., and are not named as a signer on an account you will
not automatically be allowed to access these accounts even if you are the spouse of the account holder. You must you have a DPOA. We have
heard of stories of widows who have not been able to access needed funds and accounts because there was no DPOA in place when their spouse
was incapacitated or even after their spouse passed and all their assets are in probate.
Health Care Power of Attorney (HPOA)
If someone is rendered incapable of making decisions, due to accident or illness, it is extremely important to have a reliable person to stand in
the gap to make potentially life saving decisions.
If you have not chosen someone to represent you, then someone will be chosen for you. The Surrogate Decision maker Stature of Arizona declares who can be a surrogate for an individual should there not be a medical directive available. This statute lists who can stand in for a patient in this order: patient’s spouse, child, parent, domestic partner, sibling and lastly, a close friend. In many cases this list suffices, but if there is someone you would prefer to be in the position of making your health care decisions, then be sure to have a HPOA in place.
documents give permission to any given medical provider (doctor, hospital, surgeon, etc.) to provide important medical information to designated
individuals who you have decided may be privy to the details of your diagnosis and care. Be sure to give this info to each of your doctors and
to have a certified copy on hand.
What directives do you want for your health care at the end of your life? The best time to decide that…. is while you can! Let your healthcare professionals and family know what you would prefer in a Living Will (How do you feel about surgery, dialysis, CPR, ventilator, resuscitation,tube feeding, etc.).
2. Important Documents To Support Your Estate At The Time Of Death
Preparing for the inevitable will keep loved ones from being further overwhelmed and will help them to feel cared for.
After death, a will or a trust is crucial in the finalizing of the deceased estate. These documents direct the administration of your affairs after death.
Before you decide to put this on the backburner ask yourself this question: What will the consequences be if I don’t organize my affairs?
The answer is that if you have no will or trust when you pass, all your belongings and investments will likely get hung up in probate -a judicial
process. The government is now in control of your hard-earned belongings, and your heirs will be looking at 12- 18 months (or longer) for your estate to be settled.
Last Will and Testament
Attorney, Sam Richardson of Phocus Law, offers these words of advice: “When it comes to estate planning, you get to choose what you pay in finalizing your estate. You can pay now for legal counsel to get your affairs in order. Or your family can pay for the probate process later.” This is a
reminder we should all take to heart!
– In creating this document you will express your desires as to how your estate will be distributed. This is the place to name your estate executor
— i.e., who do you want to be your personal representative?
A will should be signed, witnessed, and notarized. Make copies and keep them in a safe place. Make sure your loved ones know where to find it!
Another option is the Holographic, or handwritten, will. To be valid, the material provisions must be handwritten and must be signed. This type of
will can also get hung up in probate as its validity must be proven. In addition, it is important to attach the following to your will:
- Beneficiary deed — names the heirs of real estate – home, property, vacation home, time share etc..
- POD (Pay Upon Death)– register this form with your bank to designate who will be taking over the account.
- TOD (Transfer on Death) register who will get your vehicle with this document from the Department of Motor Vehicles.
- Beneficiary designations- on everything -– life insurance, 401K, money market accounts, retirement accounts, stocks, bonds, etc.
- Personal Property – this memorandum can be created by hand and includes your personal, non-monetary items like furniture, artwork, family
While all of the documents we’ve already discussed have effect only while you’re living or after you pass away, a Revocable Living Trust is a
document that has effect during BOTH of those time frames. A trust is an arrangement where one person holds property for the benefit of another. The person holding the property is called a trustee, and the person benefitting is called a beneficiary. The source of the property is called the grantor, settlor, or trustor. The designations for your assets are spelled out in the trust and direct how your trustee is named to oversee the
administration of those assets.
The primary benefit of a trust is that it keeps your assets out of probate. There is a seamless transition from the deceased to the heirs. There is a
lot of room for directives as well. For instance, an inheritance may be doled out in portions or held until a person is of a certain age. But that’s really only scratching the surface. You can be very creative with a trust.
A trust can be especially important for anyone whose assets are over $250,000. With the current value of housing in Arizona, this is not an uncommon mark to reach.
Attorney Michael J. “Mick” McGirr of Phocus Law gives a special caution to business owners. “Be sure to have your directives in place as to who is to run the operations and oversee the finances of your business in your absence. With an LLC or a corporation, these provisions can easily be
included in the business’ operating agreement and in a trust.”
This ensures that the business continues seamlessly. A business owner can designate how a business is to run in his absence and who should run it, as well as any other desires he or she has for the future owners.
The number of passwords each of us keeps track of is mind-boggling. It can be almost impossible to recover our own passwords, much less those of someone who is no longer with us to assist in the endeavor. Take the time to organize your passwords in a sensible, legible way and to keep them in a secure place (not on your desk next to your computer). Then tell a designated person or two where you keep them!
Are You Convinced?
While Wills, Trusts and Powers of Attorney are not something most of us like to dwell on hopefully, you are convinced of the importance of thinking ahead to what life might hold for you and how the life of your loved ones would be affected if you are unavailable. It is a labor of love to create directives for smooth transitions, no matter the changes!
This is not just a project for the elderly. Every adult should have their ducks in a row. If you are married or a parent, this is especially
Consider completing this process as a gift to those you love- really!
****Disclaimer- this is not a legal document, nor should it be considered as legal advice. It is intended to provide info that motivates individuals to think through issues that will occur and find solutions ahead of time.
Home/Life Maintenance To-Do | #GatherImportantDocuments