Estate Planning 101: Power of Attorney and Living Will

living will power of attorney memphis estate planning lawyerA common question we receive from our estate planning clients is:  “What is the difference between a Health Care Power of Attorney and a Living Will?” Some people even incorrectly believe that a Living Will is the same thing as a Health Care Power of Attorney. While the two documents relate to your health care decisions, they are not the same. Both are important when planning for disability and death.

What is a Power of Attorney?

A Power of Attorney is a basic estate planning tool that is useful for ensuring that your financial and health care decisions can be made in the event of your incapacity.

Financial Power of Attorney

With a Financial Power of Attorney, you appoint an agent who is authorized to act on your behalf with regard to financial tasks and decisions (such as the payment of your bills and living expenses) in the event that you become unable to effectively manage your own property or financial affairs.  This authority may be granted at the time you execute the document or you can elect to make it effective only in the event of your incapacity.

Health Care Power of Attorney

With a Health Care Power of Attorney, you designate an Agent to make medical decisions for you if you cannot express your wishes or make the decisions yourself.  In addition, your Health Care Power of Attorney authorizes your Agent to obtain copies of your medical records

What is a Living Will?

In conjunction with your Health Care Power of Attorney, a Living Will serves to inform your doctors and your Agents that you do not want extraordinary medical measures taken, especially those that would cause you pain or discomfort, if those measures would only prolong the dying process.  Although the  Agent you named in your Health Care Power of Attorney will ultimately make this decision, your Living Will provides guidance to your named Agent concerning your wishes.  Any person can deliver your Living Will to your doctors if the Agent you named in your Health Care Power of Attorney is unavailable to make health care decisions for you.

What if I change my mind?

You can revoke (i.e., cancel) your Financial or Health Care Power of Attorney  and Living Will documents at any time while you have capacity.

Need help with a Power of Attorney or Living Will?

Fortunately, Tennessee law governs what type of language should be included in these documents. The language requirements provide uniformity so that financial institutions and hospitals are familiar with the documents and can act accordingly.

If you have additional questions about a power of attorney or living will, or if you are interested in developing an estate plan, please call us at 901-372-5003 or   email us here.    We are experienced estate planners and regularly practice in Probate Court.

We assist personal injury, estate planning, business litigation, and business organization clients in the greater Memphis and Nashville areas. Cities covered include Arlington, Bartlett, Collierville, Cordova, Eads, Germantown, Lakeland, Ashland City, Belmont, Hillsboro, Brentwood, Belle Meade, Forest Hills, Franklin, Greenhill, Hendersonville, Nolensville, Nolan’s Park, Oak Hill, and surrounding towns and cities.

Leaving a Legacy Greater Than Wealth: More than an Estate Plan

estate plan lawyer An estate plan isn’t all you need. While providing our children with a better life than we had may be a noble goal, the goal is often lost in translation because of the means we choose. As the saying in America goes, it is “shirt sleeves to shirt sleeves in three generations.”  In fact, studies show  that 60% of transferred or inherited wealth is lost by the end of the second generation, and 90% of family wealth is lost by the third generation.

Is money really the root of all evil?  Is giving our children a life of affluence replacing more traditional values such that our descendants cannot manage wealth?

Approaching an estate plan from strictly a tax, asset protection, or other objective standpoint may indeed add to the problem.  These issues certainly need to be addressed as part of any comprehensive estate plan, but perhaps the seeds of a legacy are planted during lifetime instead of at death and have little to do with a dollar figure.

Leaving a legacy may involve telling our children and grandchildren how the wealth was accumulated, the work ethic that helped us achieve what we have achieved, and the hard times we went through to get there.  It may involve teaching our children, even adult children, how to manage money, invest wisely, plan well, and save for retirement.  In that case, even if the money is gone or depleted, we have left a legacy far greater for our descendants because we have truly given them the tools to accumulate and maintain their own wealth.  Indeed, isn’t this giving them the better life we had envisioned for them?

We Can Design an Estate Plan Especially for You.

One of our primary goals in working with clients and prospective clients is helping them design an estate plan that fits in with their overall goals and values, rather than fitting their goals into a “cookie-cutter” estate plan. If we can help you, please call (901) 372-5003 or email us here.  Your initial consultation with us is always free of charge.