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I say, review your estate plan on an annual basis. Simply check in with your lawyer every year or so. Some clients like to do this around the first of the year, others choose to do so around a birthday or wedding anniversary, still others pick a random date (but stick with it!).

Seek professional help to update your estate plan most especially when you undergo a major life change. Consult about your estate plan when, to take a few of the most prominent examples, you marry or divorce, there is a birth or death among your family or close friends, there is a change in the value and/or kind of property you own, or a person you chose to be a guardian, trustee, or executor dies. These changes require careful (re)analysis of your estate plan.

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Who needs to be most concerned with estate planning? Ask folks this question, and I’ll bet most would conjure up the image of a retiree, who just spent 40 years working hard to acquire significant assets.

But imagine, say, a married couple in their 20s or 30s. The both have good jobs, live in a nice starter home, and have one or two small toddlers at home.

This young couple tries to put away a little bit of money for savings, and in a college fund, and for retirement. Why should they worry about estate planning?

The truth is, this young couple should be just as concerned – arguably, even more concerned! – with estate planning as the retiree. Here’s why:

  1. Choosing guardians for your minor children. In an estate plan, you can choose the guardians of your young children. If you should become incapacitated, or even die, without any estate plan, an Iowa court would have no choice but to appoint a guardian for your children – but it may not be who you wanted or who you would have chosen. Better to make this choice with plenty of time to consider and make a careful, well-reasoned choice.
  1. Save on fees, court costs, and taxes. A good estate plan can save you and your estate money on fees, court costs, and taxes – perhaps even achieve substantial savings. These savings can be even more critically important for a smaller estate – more likely when you’re younger – than for larger estate, as might be more likely as you grow older. You need to save money to pass along the most you can to your family and loved ones.
  1. Charity. Young people often are passionate about one or more causes. Having an estate plan means that you can put into place much needed help for your favorite charities.
  1. Life is uncertain. It may be awkward to talk about, but life isn’t guaranteed for any of us, young or old. The old saying in estate planning circles goes, “people don’t always die when they are supposed to.” Wives usually outlive their husbands, parents usually outlive their children, and so on, but not always. It is best to be prepared for anything/everything.

Who should be most concerned with estate planning? I actually think young people should be!

Do you agree? Why or why not? I’d be very interested in your thoughts.

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What is a healthcare power of attorney?

A healthcare power of attorney (“POA”) is a legal instrument that allows you to select the person that you want to make healthcare decisions for you if and when you become unable to make them for yourself. The person you pick is your agent/representative for purposes of healthcare decision-making.

What types of healthcare decisions can be covered by POA?

A POA can govern any kind of decision that is related to your health that you allow. You could, for example, limit your representative to certain types of decisions. Or, you could allow your representative to make any healthcare decision that might come up. This includes decisions to, say, give, withhold, or withdraw informed consent to any type of health care, including but not limited to, medical and surgical treatments. Other decisions which may be included are psychiatric treatment, nursing care, hospitalization, treatment in a nursing home, home health care, and organ donation.

How is a healthcare POA different from a living will?

A living will is a statement of decisions you made for yourself. It tells medical care providers, for example, that you do not want to be kept alive by machines, if there is no hope of getting better. A healthcare POA gives someone else the authority to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to make them for yourself. The healthcare POA allows you to pick the person that you trust to make to these kinds of decisions when you cannot make them yourself.

Do I still need a living will if I have a healthcare POA?

Yes. Any decisions that you make in your living will must be followed by the person you name as your agent in your healthcare POA.

When would I use a healthcare POA?

A healthcare POA is used when you become unable to make healthcare decisions for yourself. This can be so important, that your agent is able to make decisions – and access records, communicate with healthcare providers, and so on.

Do you have a healthcare POA? Why or why not? Let me know your thoughts.