Estate planning - Are you prepared?

Monday - 6/27/2011, 7:47pm EDT

For Your Benefit

Download mp3

June 27, 2011 -- Attorney Marc Levine joins hosts Bob Leins and John Elliot to talk about estate planning.

Levin specializes in estate planning and is also a long-term presenter for NITP.

According to Levine, "from the time they turn 18 till the day they die, there are certain things everybody needs to have":

  • Power of Attorney
  • Health Care Directive
"Having those documents is vital to everybody," Levine said. "These documents are what you need to make sure you get to make sure you get to make decisions for the people you love, and that the people that you want to make decision for you, make decision for you."

Citing the Terri Schiavo case, Levine said that a medical directive is in place to prevent other people from having to guess what kind of care you would receive. Having that health care directive puts into writing not only who makes decisions for you, but what those decisions should be.

Picking a Power of Attorney
Anybody can serve as Power of Attorney, Levine said, not just a spouse, sibling or child. The only criteria is that they are trusted to make decisions and will do so with common sense. Often, a spouse or sibling may serve as a de facto Power of Attorney, but they cannot act absolutely unless they have been designated.

Designating one child or sibling as Power of Attorney can create tension, but transparency can go a long way to mitigating suspicion.

"Mary is your Power of Attorney, but everyone gets copies of the bank statements, everybody gets copies of the broker's statements. So when Mary buys a new car, nobody is saying 'I wonder where the money came for from that?'," Levine said. "Suspicion doesn't grow."

Assigning co-trustees or co-Powers of Attorney is also an option. But the relationship between the trustees or Powers of Attorney is crucial.

Most important, Levine said is to constantly re-visit the documents to ensure that it is current and still reflects your wishes.

Levine also discussed designating medical Power of Attorneys and Do Not Resuscitate orders (DNR). DNRs are filed be doctors and is effective in places where health care directives are not. In all other instances, Levine said, an estate attorney will keep originals of all documents prepared, but copies should be kept somewhere safe but accessible.

Email us with any further questions for our experts.