Preparing for your future estate planning needs is essential to protect your estate assets and provide financial security and peace of mind for your family members in times of medical crisis. Taking the necessary steps now in creating a Living Trust and Medical Power of Attorney will avoid unnecessary time delay, hardship, and legal costs to your family members.
However, when establishing your Living Trust, Medical Power of Attorney and other estate planning documents, the strategies and choices you make in creating these documents are just as important as creating the documents in the first place.
Strategic estate planning will solve many estate planning legal problems that boilerplate (on-line) documents do not resolve. Just having a Living Trust and Medical Power of Attorney is not enough. You need to be aware that there are strategic choices and language that must be included in your Living Trust and Medical Power of Attorney that will have a significant impact on achieving the goals you desire to avoid continued hardships for your family members. Your Medical Power of Attorney and Living Trust, together with the General Power of Attorney needs to be able to work immediately in times of crisis when time is of the essence. Proper strategy in drafting these legal estate planning documents will achieve your desired results.
Examples of these strategic estate planning options in preparing your Living Trust and Medical Power of Attorney are as follows:
- You should not have your Medical and/or General Power of Attorney become effective upon disability or incapacity. This causes the difficulty and time delay for your designated Medical and Financial Power of Attorney to prove your disability or incapacity in the first place before being able to act when the need arises. It is not easy to establish your disability or incapacity under Arizona State law if you cannot act. Your designated Agent will first have to obtain a court order of disability or incapacity or receive a letter from your attending physician after conducting a mental/psychological exam and determining this fact. Both of these requirements result in additional hardship and time delay to your designated Agent to act on your behalf at banks, financial institutions, title companies, and hospitals when there is a need to act and time is of the essence. A much better strategic choice in the language in your Medical Power of Attorney is to designate your Agent (family members) with the full power and authority to act immediately. This will avoid the necessity of your designated Power of Attorney to establish your disability/incapacity in times of immediate need, and allows them to act immediately.
- Designate two (2) Agents as your Medical Power of Attorney and General Power of Attorney, each with the full power and authority to act individually and independently in such legal capacity. This will allow one Agent to act when necessary if the other is not available. This way you will always have someone available to act on your behalf in times of need even if one is not available.
- Never use the word “and”; always use the word “or” when naming your different Agents. The word “and” means both Agents must act jointly on all actions. This is a bad choice, by making it difficult to get anything done on your behalf when requiring both signatures of the two (2) Agents to act on all matters. A better choice/strategy in language is to use the word “or… each with the full power and authority to act individually and independently in such legal capacity”. This way only one designated Agent needs to act and/or sign documents making it easier and quicker to act on your behalf.
- Make sure you create an asset worksheet listing in detail all your assets, bank accounts, investment accounts, accountant and lawyer contact information, and beneficiaries’ names and contact information. We have a Confidential Estate Questionnaire that allows you to set out in detail all important information that your successors/family members will need in the future. This is made available to you at no charge or commitment by visiting our website at Estate Questionnaire – Tucson Estate Planning | Living Trusts | 520) 797-1400, ALTA Estate Services In times of medical crisis, if you are not available, the Confidential Estate Questionnaire will make it so much easier for your family members to handle your estate administration by providing them with important contact information and all asset financial information, needed to administer your estate.
- Set up your bank accounts now in advance of your future needs so that the people you desire to handle your estate administration and financial needs will be able to access your bank account funds to pay future bills and expenses without having to hire lawyers to obtain such authority in a court action.
- Teamwork and coordination between you, your designated Successor Trustees under your Living Trust and Medical Power of Attorney and your financial and legal professionals in advance of any life crisis is just as important as drafting these estate planning documents in the first instance. Your spouse, family members, and designated Agents will most likely not know how to handle and proceed as your Agents in times of crisis and need. ALTA Estate Services offers a free “Emergency Hotline Program” to assist you, your spouse, and designated Agents with guidance and assistance in the use of these estate planning documents when the need arises. Planning now for future estate administration needs in times of crisis solves many critical issues. We offer this service at no charge to our clients. We will walk your Agent through the steps necessary to administer your health issues and estate asset administration. We will forward the Medical Power of Attorney to the hospital to open communication between medical staff and your family members. This is not an easy process especially during times of COVID. Without our assistance, communication with medical staff may prove to be difficult. We can open this communication through our Emergency Hotline Program. Visit Emergency Hotline – Tucson Estate Planning | Living Trusts | 520) 797-1400, ALTA Estate Services to learn more about this additional service we provide at no charge to you or your family members, in times of need.
- It is essential to have periodic updates/meetings (by telephone, zoom or in-office) to make sure your estate planning documents are current with any changes in law. ALTA Estate Services does not bill for on-going meetings or consultations. We recommend that we connect with our clients once every year or two just to check up on all legal and financial matters to make sure everything is in order. Again, we offer this service at no additional charge to our clients.
For additional information regarding any of the topics covered in this article, or if you have any questions you would like to discuss, please feel free to call us at (520)797-1400 for a free consultation.
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