A will is a document that distributes your property after your death. It can determine who will inherit anything you own, including your house, land, vehicles, furniture, personal belongings, money, and pets. A will also allows you to name a guardian for your minor children. You can also name an executor, who is the person who will settle your estate after your death.
Did you know that you should not name a minor as a direct beneficiary in your will? Minor beneficiaries (children under 18) create administrative problems and may require a court ordered guardianship. This expense can take a toll on the financial resources intended for the children. Instead, your will can establish a trust for your childlren and name a trustee to manage it. This can help to ensure the financial security of your children.
A living will can state a desire to not be kept alive by machines, such as feeding tubes, respirators, ventilators, or IV's. This document allows you to make your end of life wishes clear to your family in advance, relieving your family members of the burden of having to guess at what your wishes may be.
Power of Attorney
A power of attorney is a document which allows you to name someone you trust to handle money and business for you. A durable power of attorney can be created to be effective only if and when you become incapacitated. If you become injured or ill, and can no longer make decisions, the person named as your agent can pay bills, buy and sell property, and do any other thing that you might do if you were able to manage your own affairs.
Health Care Power of Attorney
A health care power of attorney is a document which allows you to name someone you trust to make health care decisions for you if you become mentally or physically unable to do so. For example, if you are unconscious, a health care power of attorney allows that person to consent to a blood transfusion or to surgery. You can have a health care power of attorney on file at the hospital of your choice.
The NC Secretary of State offers a voluntary registry program so that you can record your health care directives. If you register your documents, you will receive a registry card which tells you and others how to access your health care directives.
My philosophy: I believe that legal documents can, and should, be written in simple language that you can read and understand. If I can say it in one word, I won't use three or four. Here is a brief explanation of the four documents you should consider in your planning.