In the last installment we established that there were three main documents needed to delegate control as the end of life became inevitable: a durable power of attorney, a release of information and advance directives.  Each document serves a purpose in establishing care while you are still living if and when you become unable to do so yourself.

A power of attorney is drawn up in the presence of an attorney and witnesses to formally determine who you wish to leave in charge of your finances and legal affairs when you are no longer fit to do so.

A release of information is a form that is given to hospital personnel to give them the permission needed to discuss your medical history and take future actions regarding your medical health. This designated representative will receive valuable information regarding your medical records.

Advance directives are drawn up to allow people to make decisions on your behalf.  A durable power of attorney for health care allows you to name a representative that is in charge of making medical decisions on your behalf should you be unable to do so.  A living will is in place to help guide your durable power of attorney for health care in that it specifically lays out the medical treatment you are allowing in your treatment and that of which you do not wish to receive at the end of your life.

An estate planning attorney will draw up the necessary papers to help your family avoid probate.  During the probate process, without the proper paperwork in place, the court will decide all matters having to do with your estate.

This process can range from paying a few hundred dollars in court costs, filling out some forms and having the court settle your debt and distribute your property all the way to a complicated month’s long ordeal that ties up your estate and ends up costing your family thousands of dollars.  No matter which route your family is not in control.  This can all be avoided by meeting with an estate planning attorney and getting the proper paperwork in place.

In estate planning an attorney will help you to set up trusts.  A trust basically allows possessions to go to the names trustees upon your death.  While you are living you remain a trustee and therefore control remains with you.  With a trust in place you avoid probate, fees and public scrutiny of your private affairs.

Another benefit of estate planning is the ability to divvy up your personal belongings as you wish.  This helps to avoid conflicts that arise during the emotional period after your passing.  One way that this can be set up if you aren’t interested in going through each and every item you own is to create a specific strategy for dividing your property. A creative way to do this is to allow your executor control to set up an online auction between members of your family.  Each member is allotted a certain number of tokens or credits to bid on items that they wish to own.  Another option is to start gifting items as you see fit while you are still alive which allows you to see your loved ones enjoying them.

Estate planning also allows for you to create an individualized memorial and funeral.  If you are interested in a celebration of life over a mournful gathering create a personalized plan of action to be followed upon your passing.  This allows you to be in control to decide if you will choose to be cremated or buried, if you will have a religious burial or other specific details that may be important to you it is crucial that you prepare in writing these desires.

Estate planning is as much for the living as it is the deceased.  Contact a local estate planning attorney for more information on providing your family with the peace of mind they desire in the event of your untimely passing.

The Law Office of Sean J. Nichols is dedicated to assisting clients throughout legal issues that come with aging including: elder law, estate planning, probate law and more.  Check out the Law Office of Sean J. Nichols at to contact an estate attorney today.