It is important to know that legal documents are personal and tailored for individual needs. However, there are three basic estate planning documents that all adults should have in place to assure that …

  • Your wishes are followed
  • You choose who will be in charge of decisions for you
  • Your wishes are followed, and
  • You choose who will be in charge of decisions for you

Last Will and Testament

A Last Will and Testament is a legal document that contains personal instructions for distribution of assets following your death. A Will allows you to designate the beneficiaries of your estate and may include age restrictions for pay-out of the inheritance. A Will document also allows you to nominate a person to serve as Executor of your estate to wrap-up final affairs upon your death. A Will can also be an important planning tool, especially for married couples worried about long-term care planning. For example, a Will document that leaves the entire estate to your spouse may no longer be appropriate if your spouse is likely to need nursing home care. An advance plan with an attorney can help protect assets from nursing home costs.

Durable General Power of Attorney

A Durable Power of Attorney is a legal document in which you appoint an agent to make financial decisions on your behalf, during your lifetime, should you become incompetent or disabled. A Durable Power of Attorney can often avoid the need for costly guardianship proceedings. This document terminates upon your death.

Health Care Directive

A Health Care Proxy document allows you to designate an agent to make medical decisions in the event that you are unable to do so. A Living Will is appropriate for anyone who is concerned about being kept alive in an unconscious or vegetative state when there is no reasonable expectation of recovery. In New York, a Living Will is evidence of your intentions in case there is a contest over your agent’s decisions about your care. A Medical Order for Life-Sustaining Treatment (MOLST) is completed with a physician and exists to help health care providers convey a patient’s wishes regarding life-sustaining treatments. A health care directive can express your wishes to your family and often avoids the need for protracted guardianship proceedings. This document also terminates upon your death.

If you have any questions about the above material or wish to speak to an attorney, please contact us at (716) 204-1055.

Pfalzgraf, Beinhauer & Menzies, LLP is located at 455 Cayuga Road, Suite 600, Buffalo, NY 14225.

estate planning, Long term care, power of attorney, Will