By: Hannah Travis, Law Clerk and current law student at Capital University and Nolan Flowers, Associate Attorney at Dagger Law
Those of us in our early twenties, or even early thirties and forties, may wonder why we need a will. We assume that wills are “something older people get.” I’m going to tell you why it is important to not only have just a will, but also a power of attorney and healthcare directives, even if you believe you are not old enough to have these important documents.
One of the best ways in understanding the reasons for having estate documents is understanding the differences between them and how effective they can be when used properly in conjunction with one another. First, let us distinguish the three.
In its simplest form, a will is a document that allows a person to identify who will receive their assets after death. These beneficiaries can be spouses, children, grandchildren, friends, or even charities. A will can also allow parents to appoint a guardian for the minor child(ren), should they ever need guardianship.
A power of attorney is a document that allows an individual to appoint someone to serve as their attorney in fact, or “agent.” This means the appointed individual may handle financial, legal, business, or other matters on behalf of the principal in the event the principal is unable to act on their own behalf. The goal of the agent is to handle affairs in harmony as to how the principal most likely would have if it were not for their inability to do so.
Healthcare directives are generally made up of two independent documents: (1) healthcare power of attorney and (2) living will. A healthcare power of attorney provides an “agent” to make medical decisions on behalf of the principal in the event they are unable to do so. Although the healthcare power of attorney may seem similar to a power of attorney, the two documents do not overlap as far as authority provided to the agent, so this is why it is important to have both. A living will is a document where the principal dictates their end-of-life medical care in the event they would become unable to do so.
Now let us discuss why it is important to have each of these documents. It is important to have a will because this document allows you to expressly put your wishes in writing. Maybe you want one child to receive your house and car, but your other child to receive the rest of your assets, or maybe you want one person to get all your real and personal property. Ultimately, a will (or even a trust) will allow you to dictate how your assets will be distributed once you have passed. If you do not have a will prepared, Ohio’s Intestacy Succession laws will dictate how your assets get distributed. This may not align with your wishes. A will can also be a wonderful tool for those with minor children because wills allow you to identify guardianship provisions for them.
A power of attorney is important because you are appointing someone you trust to make decisions for you that may have both legal and financial implications. Having a person who can make these decisions is not only beneficial to the principal, but also to their loved ones.
Healthcare directives are similarly important because you are appointing someone to make choices regarding your health and care, which ultimately could mean appointing someone who decides when the time is right.
All these documents, when prepared correctly to adequately represent the intentions and wishes of an individual, can aid in reducing the stress and emotion that usually arises when these documents are acted upon. Additionally, a well-prepared estate plan may help reduce legal costs after the passing of a loved one.
The attorneys at Dagger Law place clients’ needs first, as clients are our top priority. They take great care in compiling these documents, as they truly care about you and your loved ones.