Thinking of our own mortality, mental or physical decline is not something that any of us like to dwell on. However, if we just make sure we have the right legal tools in place when the inevitable happens, then not only will you relieve the anxiety over your medical care and/or distribution of your estate to your named beneficiaries, but you also can relieve a lot of stress and unwanted decision making from your loved ones.
First, you want to have either a Living Will, also known as a Health Care Directive. A general Power of Attorney will allow your named agent the ability to make financial and other decisions in your stead, but even if there is a “health care clause” in the document, many health care providers and facilities will not honor a single health care clause in a general Power of Attorney and, at the very least, heavily prefer a specific Health Care Power of Attorney. A Healthcare Power of Attorney will grant to your named agent the ability to make health care decisions for you if and when you are unable to make those decisions for yourself. Also, if there is no Living Will/Healthcare Directive, then this person will also make all decisions in relation to whether to put you on invasive life sustaining procedures. Many people have direct conversations with their agent upon signing the document and tell the agent under what circumstances they want to be put on life support, etc. This gives more discretion for your loved one, that knows your situation, to make these ever so important decisions on your behalf.
Second, if you are confident in what your wishes are in regards to life sustaining procedures, then a Living Will or Health Care Directive, might be the right option for you. Many people confuse a Living Will with a Last Will and Testament, but the two are completely different legal tools. A Living Will is a document you sign stating whether you want all invasive life sustaining procedures, no invasive life sustaining procedures besides nutrition and hydration, or no invasive life sustaining procedures at all. You can even be more extensive on particular health care decisions, but life support or not is the primary directive in most Living Wills. This is strictly a personal decision and there is no right or wrong, but you do want to make sure your wishes will be enacted.
A general Power of Attorney can also be a very useful tool and one that is not necessarily only used in your incapacitation. This document gives your named agent the full authorization to execute documents, write financial instruments, purchase or sell property, contract, etc. on your behalf, but does not take away your ability to do so. Therefore, this can be a fantastic document and very useful in many circumstances when you are unavailable for certain transactions, but your named agent should be someone you trust implicitly for obvious reasons.
Last and, maybe most important, are Last Will and Testaments. This document directs what is to happens to your possessions upon your death and what each individually named beneficiary receives. A Notarial Will in Louisiana is the most common form of Will and is usually prepared by an Attorney and signed by a Notary and two witnesses. Using the proper form in Notarial Wills is crucial and failure to adhere to the proper form makes the will null and void and subjects your estate to the Louisiana law of intestacy, instead of your stated wishes. I encounter many clients that have purchased Wills online to attempt to save money and yet when their heirs bring in the Will after their passing, I regretfully inform them that the Will is no good and they are not in-line to inherit due to procedural errors in the document. Many times the potential client tells me that the person even paid twice as much online as we charge to draft and execute a Will. Obviously, you also don’t want to try to draft the document yourself for the same reason. Wills are one of the most important documents that you can create, but just make sure it is legal and you can rest in peace knowing where and to who all your earthly belongings are going!
If you are interested in a free consultation to discuss these legal instruments, please call us at (318) 387-2201. A standard Will that can be drafted and executed within a one hour time period, which are most Wills, are only $250.00. We draft and execute general Power of Attorneys for $150 and healthcare Power of Attorneys also for $150. This is a small price to pay for peace of mind knowing you not only have the documents, but that they were professionally drafted and executed. We hope to see you soon and if you have questions let us know!