Discussing with your family and loved ones your wishes for what happens when you die or are incapacitated is difficult. However, it is important to have those conversations before something happens so that your loved ones know what you want and can carry out your wishes. If you die without having a written will, your estate will be settled according to the laws of your state by an appointed administrator and he or she may not follow your wishes or your heirs’ wishes. Thankfully, writing a will does not have to be extremely complicated. You can hire an attorney to assist you or you can use a do it yourself kit. AARP.org has a series of informative articles about creating wills and web site links to find legal assistance. If you choose to write your own will, just be sure that it complies with the laws of your state. You will want to name an executor or joint executors as well as a guardian for minor children. You can also include a letter specifying who should inherit specific items such as family heirlooms. You should keep your original will signed by you and witnesses in a safe and secure place. It is also a good idea to review and update your will every few years or after any major life event (i.e., birth of a child, marriage, etc.).
When creating your will, it is important to consider designating a power of attorney as well. Depending on the type of power of attorney that you choose, that person will be able to make financial and medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so yourself. ElderLawAnswers.com explains the four different types of power of attorney that are available and gives tips on how to choose which is best for you. The website for the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys also has valuable resources on estate planning, designating power of attorneys, and finding an elder law attorney near you.