Durable Power of Attorney – PLEASE Understand This One Thing…

Aretha Franklin Died Without A Will

How do we know? Simple because ANYONE can go down to the probate office and find out what’s going on.

In this case, presumably the crack investigative journalists at the Detroit Free Press went down to the probate courts and found...”her four sons filed a document Tuesday afternoon listing themselves as interested parties in her estate. One document filed with the court and signed by her son Kecalf Franklin, and her estate attorney, David Bennett, check a box acknowledging the absence of a will.”

No Will or Trust

You can read the article here if you so choose.

The article goes on to state “the finances of an intensely private Aretha Franklin soon will become very public in Oakland County Probate Court because she left no will or trust.”

The funny thing about that statement though is that a WILL won’t solve the issue of an estate becoming ‘very public’ either.

Probate Court

Probate court is nothing more than the public proving of a Will.  The emphasis there on PUBLIC.  So, a Will or not, probate court will get involved and thus this will become public.

Dying without a Will is called Intestate by the way.  Which means the probate court will have at it to dictate the disposition of your assets.  Hopefully, there won’t be children who need guardianship! I talk about this situation and how it may have affected my family in my book “Strategic Money Planning” which you can get here.  In fact, you can get this book for FREE on regular Kindle for the next day or so.  After that it’s all of $4.49.

Get A Will!

So what do you need to do? Well, make sure you at least have a Will!  In fact, in my video here, I go over estate planning basics and the minimal documents you need.  Now, be advised, I do not recommend simply using LegalZoom.  You need to get a real person to draw up your documents.  A real attorney who knows estate planning.

Yes, it will cost you a couple hundred dollars, or more. But folks, this is not just a form you take to the bank for a quick transaction, your life is wrapped up in this document(s). You have got to make sure it’s done correctly.  Even if costs you more money than doing it via computer program.

I leave you with these questions. When did you get your Will drawn up?  Has anything changed since then? How is your executor/executrix? Who is your attorney in fact?  What kind of Power of Attorney do you have? Do you have a Living Will? Do you have a Medical Directive?  Do you have a Trust? Is it funded?

So much to consider. But you need to do it, every few years too.

I see a disaster coming…

Yeah, that headline is brilliant click-bait.  But I need you to read this.
Do you have a Durable Power of Attorney? If so, what EXACTLY does it say?
When is your agent able to act on your behalf?

Durable Power of Attorney Language

See that language above?  I’ve seen this more times than I can count.  Is there a good reason to have not one but TWO physicians to have to certify, in writing mind you, that you are incapacitated?  Maybe.  But think about it from your agent’s perspective. What a pain!  How quickly can she/he get this done when she/he needs to act…NOW?

Think about it from the physician’s perspective too.  Here comes a grieving spouse, hub is laid up in the hospital for whatever reason and she needs to get doctors to sign off that hub is out of commission. Not dead though, as that is much easier to contend with. But incapacitated.

All a doctor can see is the mass amount of liability facing them if they are being played.

I am attaching a chapter on this exact issue from my first book Strategic Money Planning. 8 Easy Ways to Get Your House in Order, where I show you a real world scenario of how this may actually play out. Not good.  Click here for that chapter.

Now, again, I’m not an attorney. YOU may have specific reasons why you need a physician to sign off on your incapacity before your agent, i.e., attorney in fact, can act on your behalf.  In fact, you may have specific reasons why you need TWO doctors to sign off on your incapacity.  I don’t know your situation. And will leave that to you and your attorney.

But please consider if this is your default option, do you understand the ramifications and what that could mean to your attorney in fact?

This is the odd thing about real financial planning.  True financial planners are a paranoid bunch.  What are the risks lurking behind each bush?  How do we minimize those risks?

Of course, just because one is paranoid doesn’t mean there aren’t things out to get you. Risks are everywhere. We don’t want to be frightened to the point of being debilitating though.  That’s what planning does. Hope for the best but prepare for the worst.

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