2005-12-09 / Columnists


On Elderlaw
By Nancy J. Brady, RN, Esq. And Linda Faith Marshak, Esq.

Happy Holidays! Over the past year we have emphasized the importance of the basic estate planning documents- the Last Will and Testament, Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy. These documents are important for all individuals over the age of eighteen, not just for senior citizens. Many of our clients have learned the hard way just how important it is to have these documents in place. Let’s review some of the reasons they’re so important-

A Last Will and Testament tells the world exactly how your assets are to be distributed upon your death. If you die with assets in your name alone (intestate), with no beneficiary designation, and there is no Last Will and Testament, your assets will pass as delineated by statute in New York. That designation may or may not be how you would have liked your estate to be distributed. You can change the persons who will inherit from you by executing a Will. By executing a Will, you can also pick the person or persons who will have the job to distribute your assets to your beneficiaries. This person is known as the Executor. In a Will you can make bequests to disabled individuals in a special trust, so that any benefits they may be receiving will not be jeopardized. You can also name guardians and trustees for minor children in a Will, which is the primary reason most young parents execute Wills.

The Power of Attorney is a document that names a person (known as an agent) to act on your behalf during your lifetime for a variety of financial and business transactions. The form can be one that is effective immediately upon execution, or at a later date, as designated on the form, should you become incompetent or incapacitated. The form can be limited to specific powers, or the agent can be given broad authority to act on your behalf. You may never need to use the form, but if you should need to have someone act on your behalf, a validly executed Power of Attorney may avoid lengthy and costly guardianship proceedings.

A Health Care Proxy form names a person chosen by you to make medical decisions for you if you should be unable to make them yourself- for example if you are unconscious, under anesthesia or otherwise incapacitated. In addition to naming the person you decide as your agent, you may choose an alternate agent (to act in the event your agent is unavailable).

As our gift to those of you who have been putting off getting these important basic documents done, we will give you the incentive you need to finally execute your Will, Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy. During the first two weeks of January, our clients will receive a fifteen percent courtesy from the usual fee for these documents, and for the second two weeks in January, a ten percent courtesy will be given. For yourselves, and for your loved ones, make this your New Year’s resolution to get these documents done! For more information, call our office at 516-829-8265 or 718-945-7777.

We wish all of you happy and healthy holidays, and look forward to hearing from you!

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