If you have never talked to an estate planning lawyer before, you should know that there are a number of commonly misunderstood ideas about estate planning to which many people subscribe. If you are one of these people, you should not feel bad. Estate planning is not a hot discussion topic amongst most people in the general public, and even estate planning lawyers are sometimes bored by all the details. Nevertheless, there are several commonly misunderstood ideas about estate planning that we thought we should address so you won’t be confused if you ever come across them.
Commonly Misunderstood Ideas About Estate Planning: Powers of Attorney
One of the most widely used estate planning tools is the power of attorney; and it’s also one of the most widely misunderstood. A power of attorney is a document. Through that document you get to choose someone who will make decisions on your behalf, or who can enter into agreements or contracts on your behalf. You do not have to be a lawyer to make or use a power of attorney, nor does an attorney have to play any part in its use. For purposes of a power of attorney, the term ‘attorney’ simply means ‘representative.’
Commonly Misunderstood Ideas About Estate Planning: Living Wills
A living will is not a last will and testament. In fact, living wills have nothing to do with your property, inheritances, or anything for which you use a last will.
A living will is a document that you use to tell your doctors and health care providers what you want in the event you lose capacity. As such, it only applies while you are alive but incapacitated.
A will, on the other hand, only applies after you die. Through a will you can decide how you want your property distributed as inheritances.
Living wills and wills are completely different tools, and you cannot use one as a substitute for the other.
Commonly Misunderstood Ideas About Estate Planning: Advance Directives
What makes living wills doubly confusing is that they are also sometimes referred to as advance directives. An advance directive is a document that allows you to make medical or financial choices that will apply in the event you lose your capacity to make or express decisions. In other words, you make these documents in advance of losing capacity, so they can serve as your voice if that ever happens.
Unfortunately, a lot of people refer to these tools as “advanced” directives. This is a misnomer. There is nothing particularly complex or advanced about advance directives. These are tools that any capable adult can make as long as he or she ensures the documents comply with all relevant legal requirements.