“What are the three documents that everyone needs in their Alabama estate plan regardless of assets or income?”
Hi, my name is Bill Miller, I’m an attorney in Aniston, Alabama at Adams Miller. My partner, Bruce Adams and I handle estate planning and elder law matters.
Those three estate planning documents are a last will and testament, an advance directive for healthcare and a power of attorney. The reason everyone needs these is because they tell other people what to do in the event some unforeseen circumstance happens to you and you are no longer able to control or manage your assets.
A will is designed to legally tell everyone what it is you want to happen to your assets when you pass away. When you do a will, we draft it for you with your specific instructions. As a result, there are no questions or issues about what is supposed to happen to your assets when you pass away. You specifically tell us ahead of time what you want and we put those wishes in your last will and testament.
The second document everyone needs is an advance directive for healthcare. That document has two parts; one is a living will and the other is a medical power of attorney, or healthcare proxy, same thing. Again it is a two part document.
With the living will you state your wishes about whether you do or do not want to be on a respirator or feeding tube in the event you become incapacitated or injured to the point where you are not going to recover and you are not able to survive on your own by natural means.
The doctors do not know and your family does not know so it is important that you set these instructions in writing ahead of time. If not, if something tragic happens your family is not going to know what to do. By doing an advance directive for healthcare you can set those instructions out ahead of time and save your family a whole lot of heartache.
The second part of an advance directive is a healthcare proxy, or medical power of attorney. With a medical power of attorney you designate someone to help the doctors make decisions if something like this happens to you. It is hard to cover every, single thing in the first part of the document with a living will, so the healthcare proxy is designed to name someone to help make those decisions.
The third document that everyone needs is a financial power of attorney, or durable power of attorney. A durable power of attorney is designed to give someone else the authority to act legally on your behalf while you are still alive; allow them to cash checks, pay your bills, execute documents and things like that. Unless you have one of these, if you become incompetent and you are not able to handle your own affairs then someone has to go to the probate court to get authority to act for you. This is called a conservatorship proceeding which is a time consuming and very expensive process. By having the Alabama power of attorney you give someone that authority in advance should you ever need someone to act on your behalf.
Those are the three documents that everyone should have. To learn more about estate planning, how to avoid probate and make it easy on your family if something happens to you, click the link to receive a copy of our book on The Basics of Estate Planning in Alabama or visit events.adamsmillerlaw.com/Workshops.html to register for one of our free estate planning workshops or simply call us at 256 251-2137.