What other documents should I have prepared?

When you become incapacitated, you may be unable to handle your own affairs.  Since your Will only becomes effective on your death, it does not help in this situation.  If you have a Trust, a successor trustee you have named will step in to handle your assets in the Trust.  I normally recommend a Durable Power Of Attorney so that someone is authorized to handle your financial affairs in the event you are unable to do so yourself.  With a power of attorney they can normally deal with your assets not in Trust, file your tax returns and handle your other financial affairs.  You should also consider an Advanced Health Care Directive.  This document authorizes someone to make health care decisions for you as you have directed if you are unable to do so yourself.  

What if I don't have a Durable Power Of Attorney or Advanced Health Care Directive?

If you become incapacitated and don't have someone authorized to act on your behalf, it will be necessary to go to court and file a request for a Conservatorship to get authority to handle your affairs.  It may be a Conservatorship of the person (someone who takes care of your physical well-being, including where you live) or a Conservatorship of the estate (someone who takes care of your financial affairs).  It can be the same person handling both, but doesn't have to be.  Court supervision usually means you will have court costs, and most likely, attorney fees.  The court will require periodic accountings and status reports.  This will result in an expense to your estate.

What if I can't take care of myself?

If you have a proper Trust set up, become incapacitated and unable to take care of your financial affairs, a successor trustee can step in and handle your Trust for you.  If you have a valid Advanced Health Care Directive, you will have named one or more persons to make the health care decisions you can't make for yourself.  If you don't have an Advanced Health Care Directive and haven't set up a Trust, your family may have to ask the court to establish a Conservatorship for you in order for someone to have legal authority to act on your behalf.  Even if you have a Trust, I recommend you also have a Durable Power of Attorney so that someone will be able to handle any financial matters that fall outside of the Trust.

The information set forth above is intended as a general summary of the most common situations incurred. There are many other circumstances which can create other situations providing other requirements and/or remedies, not all of which are addressed herein. Because of space limitations it is impossible to cover every contingency. You should consult a knowledgeable attorney for specific information related to your case.

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