Many people do not have an estate plan if they become catastrophically injured. This is particularly true of those who are relatively young and free of health concerns.
For some, perhaps most, the gamble may pay off. A person may stay healthy long enough for their children to become independent adults. But until this is the case, having someone in place to make decisions for you is critical.
Critical to you, who needs help, but also critical to those who depend upon you.
The Risks of Not Having an Estate Plan
If you are catastrophically injured, and if you have no estate plan in place, there may not be a designated person to step in and make decisions regarding your health. How does that impact you and how does that impact your kids?
When a catastrophic injury or illness takes place there are quite a number of major decisions that need to occur in a very short time period in many instances. And potentially for a longer time. These decisions involve your long-term health and long-term financial health. Your kids depend upon you to be there for them physically AND financially. Having an estate plan in place can ensure that someone is making decisions with you AND your children in mind.
What kinds of decisions are we talking about here?
- Should you have certain procedures or surgeries?
- Should you be transported to a different facility for different care?
- Which doctor should you see?
- What do these treatments cost?
- Does your insurance cover these treatments/doctors/facilities?
As you can see, the questions can pile up. Having the right person making these decisions for you can have significant impacts not just on your care, but on your children’s future as well.
Naming Someone To Care For Your Kids
If you are unable to make decisions for yourself for healthcare, there is a high likelihood you cannot (even if temporarily) make decisions in your children’s lives, also. They call this incapacity in the legal world. And even if it is just temporary, you also need to name someone to care for your kids in the event you cannot care for them due to illness or injury.
This is considered a nomination of guardianship for minor children. You can name someone, whether it is a permanent situation or hopefully a temporary situation.
What Happens If You Do Not Have an Advance Directive For Healthcare and Have Not Named a Guardian
In extreme circumstances, but absolutely in the realm of possibility, you would have a guardian appointed by the State of Georgia to make healthcare decisions for you and your children would be taken into custody by authorities and placed into the foster system until such time as you recover.
In most circumstances, family would step up. But would it be the family you want to have step in and make the decisions that you want for you and your kids? Would there potentially be more than one family member who felt it was their job and perhaps would argue over this with authorities and put your children in the middle of the situation?
Setting up a Basic Estate Plan
The good news is that it is probably easier than you think to protect your dependents and designate someone to make medical decisions for you. By setting up a comprehensive estate plan, you will have all your bases covered. Your estate plan will ensure that your dependents and your property are protected and cared for in the way you see fit. When you sit down to talk with a talented and experienced estate planning attorney, you will be able to refer to our essential estate planning checklist to make sure you have thought of everything.
Your Essential Estate Planning Checklist
Here is everything you will need to complete your basic estate plan. Your attorney will help you understand the details and options for each. For now, let’s focus on the basics.
Last Will and Testament
When an estate holder is no longer able to speak for herself or himself, the will is there to ensure that the estate holder’s final wishes are adhered to. Your will is your backup plan if your family and dependents disagree about what should be done with your property and assets after you pass. It can also layout your end of life healthcare and posthumous wishes.
Durable Powers of Attorney
Durable Powers of Attorney (DPOA) enable you to assign a specific person with the ability to take over for you and act on your behalf when you no longer can. There are several types of DPOA, which you should discuss with an estate planning attorney.
If you have dependents (minor children or adult children with disabilities), you will need to set up a children’s protection plan. Your designated guardian will take charge of assets that you set aside for the care of your dependents. If you do not have a guardianship plan, these decisions will be made for you by the legal system.
Beyond your last will and testament, you can further identify who should receive ownership and control over specific bank accounts, assets, businesses, real estate, and more. Your designated beneficiaries list clarifies who has control of what assets or accounts and who should be the beneficiaries of those assets or accounts. This tool can let you set up childcare trusts as well as a healthcare trust for yourself.
End of Life Plan
You will need to establish a plan for your funeral and other posthumous expenses. This can come in the form of funeral insurance, a prepaid funeral plan or a “payable on death” bank account. These will ensure that the financial burden of your final rites is not unduly laid on the shoulders of your family.
Estate Plan Update Schedule
Finally, should the inevitable come later, rather than sooner, you will need to alter your estate plan to adapt to life changes. Children grow up, people change jobs, buy, sell, and lose property ‒ and so on. You should be prepared to revise your estate plan at least every two years.
What Is a Trust?
We mentioned that individuals could be given control of an account ‒ even when they are not the designated beneficiaries of that account. Here, we are concerned with healthcare trusts and childcare trusts. A trust allows you to specifically choose a person to manage an account for the purpose of dispensing care to a minor child or dependent. This gives you the peace of mind of knowing you and your dependents will be cared for ‒ and that your chosen trustees will not have to pay for said care out of their own pockets.
If you are a single parent or an only provider for minor children or other dependents, you owe it to them to have a complete estate plan in place. Call or fill out the form below to get in touch with the Atlanta Wills + Trusts Law Group today. We’ll walk you through the process and make sure your children and your estate are protected.