This post covers how to make a will, living will, and power of attorney documents. Follow your state’s laws when drawing up all legal documents.
Disclaimer: I am not a legal professional. Please do not assume that this information about making a will is correct for your situation or state. Consult resources in your location to comply with local laws, and to make sure these documents are done correctly.
Why Make A Will
Why is a will important?
- According to attorney, Betsey Simmons Hannibal, “The most common and simple reason to make a will is to decide who will get your property when you die. Without a will (or other plan, like a living trust), your state laws determine how your property will be distributed — usually to your closest relatives, like your spouse, children or parents.”
- If you have children, and have no surviving parent to take care of them, the state will decide who cares for them after your death, if you have not created a will that says who you want that responsibility to go to.
- You may also need to create a will to provide for a disabled child when you’re gone.
- Anyone who has pets also needs a will to make sure they are provided for after the owner’s death.
- If you co-habitate or have a same-sex marriage, your significant other or spouse may not inherit your property depending upon where you live. With a will, your wishes will be followed.
- There are also tax reasons for creating a will or trust. Consult your accountant for more information.
So for these reasons, create a will!
Ways To Create A Will
Legal Document Resources
Thinking about making a will, can be very overwhelming. Thankfully today, there are many resources to help you understand what is involved in making a will. There are also many options available to create a will.
This post is a good place to start: https://www.upbeatliving.net/health-matters-part-2-legal-documents/.
NOLO also has a whole bunch of legal articles on any topic you might need information on. They also sell estate planning software.
Online Resources To Create Legal Documents
Going to an attorneys’ office to create legal documents used to be the only way you could make a will. It was very expensive. Today, there are several online sites that will help you create a will.
I have used Legal Zoom and highly recommend them. With Legal Zoom you create your will online. You then print it out, and take it to a notary where you sign it. Take two witnesses that are not named in the will to go with you to sign it. The current price is $89 for a basic will. Legal Zoom now has a vetted network of attorneys for you if you need more guidance. Legal Zoom asks you a series of questions and guides you toward whatever services you need for your circumstances.
Low Cost Resources
Lastly, in the United States, there are many resources for low income, disabled, or senior citizens to help them create wills, power of attorney documents, and living wills in person. Check out this article: 7 Sources Of Free Legal Services For Seniors. If you live outside of the United States, do an online search for these services in your area.
Besides having a regular will, you need to consider a living will as well. A living will is a legal document that specifies what medical treatment you do or don’t want in case that you’re so ill that you cannot speak for yourself. This document only comes into play if you are too ill to speak for yourself and you don’t have a spouse to speak for you. It can be created when you make a regular will. Currently, Legal Zoom is charging $39 dollars for a living will.
Thinking about death is not an easy subject, but it can help to set you, and your loved ones’ minds at ease knowing you have talked about what is important to you before you can no longer speak for yourself. So it’s wise to discuss with family members what your wishes are before that happens. Five Wishes is a program of Aging With Dignity. It can help you with these discussions. Five Wishes is:
“Written in user-friendly lay language, Five Wishes was the first advance directive to address personal, emotional, and spiritual issues in addition to meeting medical and legal criteria. Because the document is based on what is important to people, it has been widely embraced by families, community groups, faith communities, and medical and legal providers.”
Their website is very user friendly and has guides to help you think about and discuss end-of-life topics. You can access it here: https://fivewishes.org/#
Mental Health Living Wills
If you live with severe mental illness, there is also a living will that covers how you want to be treated in case of a mental health crisis. It is a Mental Health living will also “called a “psychiatric advance directive” or a “mental health advance directive.”” The following article discusses these wills in more detail. http://davidsusman.com/2015/10/22/psychiatric-advance-directives-a-living-will-for-mental-health-treatment/
Power of Attorney Documents
Sometimes a Living Will is called a Medical Power of Attorney. Additionally, there are also legal power of attorney documents that allow someone else to pay your bills, and make financial and legal decisions for you if you are unable to do so. You can read more about these documents here: https://www.upbeatliving.net/health-matters-part-2-legal-documents/
You can give permission to a family member to pay bills, and write checks by having them sign a card for this at the bank. Do not put their name on your bank accounts if you do not want the account funds to go to them when you die. When you put their name on the account it belongs to them, too.
I hope this information helps you think about your future wishes and create or update these documents as needed.
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