It’s hard to believe that summer is already over and kids are heading back to school. It seems like just a few weeks ago that kids all over Benton and Bryant were celebrating the end of another school year, filling up neighborhood pools and spending hot evenings at the ballpark.
As our kids stock up on all of the necessary school supplies and look for the perfect backpack, I realize how easy it is for grown-ups to think that we can finally stop worrying about learning new things since we’re no longer in school. Especially as seniors reach retirement, the temptation is strong to feel like all lessons have been learned and dues have been paid – if we don’t know it by now, it probably wasn’t that important.
But we know the truth. We can never stop learning. As an elder law attorney, there are certain lessons that I teach each and every week. Many of those lessons are about certain “supplies” everyone should have as they get older. The first “supply” is a general durable power of attorney. Many people believe that their spouse or their children will be able to handle business for them when the time comes. However, without a good general durable power of attorney, no one is permitted to sign or speak for you if and when you cannot speak for yourself. Too often I see spouses and children deadlocked when needing to deal with a home or retirement account because the title company or bank won’t recognize their authority to conduct business on behalf of their family member.
The second essential “supply” that everyone should have is a set of health care documents – a health care power of attorney, HIPAA authorization, and living will. People tell me every day that they don’t see why a living will or health care power of attorney is very important – their family members know their wishes. But these days, it’s not enough for your family to just know your wishes. You must put your directives in writing.
The third essential “supply” that everyone should have is either a will or a trust. One lesson that I teach to clients more than any other involves the difference between these two estate planning documents. Many people believe that a will avoids probate court. It won’t. A will, by definition, is a set of instructions meant to guide a person’s estate through the probate process. A trust, on the other hand, when properly drafted and funded, is designed specifically to avoid probate.
Do your homework. Know what you need to be prepared for the future in order to protect the people and things that matter most to you. Call today for a no-charge strategy session.