If There’s a Will, There’s a Way
Trainor Law PLLC
Many of us do not contemplate the logistics of dying. We tend to think about the logistics of living far more frequently – what groceries to buy, when to pick up our children, how to take care of our health.
However, the decisions we make regarding our person and our estate may have lasting and significant impacts – not only on ourselves but also on the family, friends and finances we leave behind when we pass. One way individuals can put their worries to rest is by executing a will package.
What Is a Will Package?
A will package is a standard set of documents typically including 3-4 documents:
- Last Will & Testament
- Living Will/Health Care Proxy (either separate or together)
- Durable Power of Attorney
Though each document accomplishes a different purpose, they each outline your wishes in a legally binding manner should you be unable to make important decisions yourself. In each document, you designate individuals to serve as agents that will act on your behalf in accordance with your wishes set forth in each document. The summaries below outline the function and benefit of each document.
Last Will & Testament
Your Last Will & Testament details several aspects of your estate upon your death, including estate management and distribution. Your Executor manages your estate, including the oversight of estate administration, the payment of expenses accrued from last illness and funeral services and the management of real and personal property.
Your Will also summarizes how you would like your estate to be distributed upon your death. Many people often leave their estate to their spouse and, should they predecease them, their children. However, with a few limitations, you may distribute your estate however you like, whether in equal shares to relatives or in certain percentages to charitable organizations – you’re in control. You can also specify particular gifts of individual property, such as giving your daughter a certain piece of jewelry upon your passing.
If you have young children, you may also want to ensure their care and financial support by appointing a Guardian to watch over your children, and a trust provision to hold a specific amount of funds for your children until they reach a specified age. Your appointed Trustee oversees the Trust and distributes the funds when the time comes.
Living Will/Health Care Proxy
Your Living Will and Health Care Proxy both relate to health care decisions should you be unable to make them yourself. Your Living Will may outline extraordinary measures to be taken to sustain your life or you can decline certain forms of treatment under specified conditions. You may also indicate whether you would like to serve as an organ donor and which organs you’d like to donate upon your death. You designate health care agents within your Health Care Proxy, which enables them to make medical decisions on your behalf in accordance with your wishes as outlined in your Living Will. We offer both New York Specific and Pro-Life Living Wills.
Durable Power of Attorney
Your Durable Power of Attorney relates to the management of your finances and other affairs while you are still alive. As the principal, you designate an agent to act on your behalf should you be incapacitated or for convenience. For example, under the New York General Obligations Law, you may authorize your agent to assist you with:
- Transactions: Real Estate, Banking, Business Operating, Insurance, and Estate Matters;
- Legal Claims & Litigation;
- Personal & Family Maintenance (i.e. making monetary gifts to individuals or charities);
- Tax Matters.
Your Power of Attorney agent may also initiate financial transactions on your behalf if necessary. Say, for instance, you are traveling internationally and need money. If you are unable to access your bank account while abroad, your designated Power of Attorney agent may do so for you back home. Perhaps you have a pending real estate transaction and are unable to attend the closing. In this scenario, you may designate another (whether it be a spouse or the attorney representing you) to sign the necessary transfer forms on your behalf.
The Right Move – Self-Determination
The advantage in executing a will package may also be considered by looking at the potential disadvantage in not executing one. That is, if you yourself do not articulate your own wishes in a Last Will & Testament, your asset distribution will be determined by statute through an administrator assigned by the probate court and your loved ones may have very little say in it.
This article is intended to be educational and is not intended to be legal advice, which can only be given after an attorney-client relationship is established.