Estate planning is a critical process for everyone that can entail drafting a will, power of attorney, advance health care directive, and possibly a trust to protect and preserve you or your loved one’s assets. Guidance from an experienced estate planning attorney from Ballou & Bedell can ensure that your end-of-life wishes are documented and carried out.
Writing a will allows you to select the beneficiaries of your assets. Without this document, any property you own at the time of your death will be distributed in accordance with Maine state laws, which may not reflect your desires. For example, if a man dies without a will leaving a wife and several children, estate planning law would distribute the first $50,000.00 of the estate and half of the balance to the wife. The remaining half would be distributed equally among his children. In certain situations, such as when the wife is elderly, the husband may prefer to leave his entire estate to his wife. The assets remaining after her death, if any, could then pass to their children.
A power of attorney is a document in which you, the principal, give an agent authority to act in your stead. With a durable power of attorney, the appointed person has the power to do everything that you can do personally, such as paying your bills, selling your assets, and filing your tax returns.
Statistically, you are more likely to become disabled than you are to die unexpectedly. Many people incorrectly assume that if they become disabled their spouse or children will be able to act in their stead. This is not the case. For example, your spouse has no ability to sell or mortgage your jointly held real estate or even take out a home equity loan. If you were ever to become unable to function on your own, whether through an accident or illness, the Probate Court would appoint a guardian/conservator if you have not already appointed an individual with a power of attorney.
A health care power of attorney (often referred to as an advance health care directive or living will ) gives your agent the power to make medical decisions, should you become incapable of doing so yourself. These decisions include consenting to surgery and deciding which treatments will be used. As with the durable power of attorney, you should choose an agent that you trust implicitly to carry out your exact wishes.
An advance health care directive also contains a living will. This provision documents the wishes your agent should adhere to if you are in a terminal condition or persistent vegetative state. It also serves as an open dictate to an attending physician should your agent be unavailable to make decisions for you.
Some individuals need long-term or nursing home care and are concerned that this will drain their assets, especially if they are of moderate means. For some, the answer is long-term care insurance, but others may plan for a nursing home stay through asset protection. Medicaid planning is a difficult area of the law fraught with traps for the unwary. At Ballou & Bedell we can help guide families through these difficult decisions.
Estate Planning Questionnaire
Determining Your Net Worth Questionnaire
Preparing a Will and Other Probate/Estate Planning Issues
The Advance Directive- Taking Charge of Your Health Care
Trusts- Are they Right for Me?