Wills, Powers-of-Attorney, Living Wills

Will

Your will is the last statement you make to those you love. If you are single and have few assets, you still have the opportunity to designate distribution of your personal property to friends and family members. If you have accumulated wealth, your will allows you to direct the distribution of those assets among your heirs. If you are a parent, your will is the instrument that appoints a guardian for your minor child. When discussing your last will and testament, I will help you evaluate all factors and determine how to proceed.

Do you need a will? Yes. Every adult should have a basic estate planning package:

  • A will that provides for a guardian for minor children, appoints a trusted person as executor and directs the distribution of property without probate costs
  • A living will/health care directive/advance medical directive that provides guidance regarding your health care if you are unable to make your wishes known
  • A durable power of attorney that designates a representative to handle your financial affairs if you are unable to do so yourself

Living Will

Every adult should have a living will. When you are not able to speak for yourself, who will make decisions regarding your health care? Do you want your doctor to take extreme measures to preserve your life? Do you want to die without medical intervention? Under what circumstances do you want a feeding tube?

As a resident of Virginia you can, through a living will, name a designated agent to make decisions on your behalf. The living will (also known as an advance health care directive) has replaced the durable power of attorney for health care.  If you are admitted to a hospital, staff will encourage you to fill out an advance health care directive to be included in your records. If you want me to prepare your living will, I will be more than happy to do so.

Typical elements of a living will:

  • Designation of an agent to make health care decisions on your behalf
  • Specific instructions regarding the use of a feeding tube, antibiotics or extreme measures such as life support
  • A “do not resuscitate” (DNR) order, common in the living will and on the medical charts of patients in the late stages of terminal conditions
  • Instructions regarding organ and tissue donation for transplants or research
  • Directions to your family or agent regarding the disposition of your remains and your funeral

Power of Attorney

A simple document, the durable power of attorney (POA), should be on file for every person 18 years of age and over. The POA designates a representative to handle legal and financial matters on that person’s behalf in the event the person becomes unable to handle these affairs. If you do not draft a durable POA and become incapacitated, the court will appoint a conservator to handle your affairs. Not only is a conservatorship expensive, a stranger may be making important decisions on your behalf.

As your attorney, I will see that your estate plan includes a basic will, durable power of attorney and living will. During our discussions, I will help you identify the best candidate to be designated as a representative, usually a relative, friend, spouse or domestic partner. I then draft a clearly worded document stating under what circumstances that representative has power of attorney. I also prepare powers of attorney for specific purposes or short terms.