“Statistics point to the fact that over 70% of adults will die without a will.” – Dave Ramsey
When I heard this quote last year, the number sent chills down my spine…SEVENTY PERCENT!!! It dawned on me that I was among those people that failed to put things in order before saying goodbye. So, for Father’s Day this year, Aaron and I decided to bite the bullet and “get-er-done”. I was honestly surprised how easy it was once we took the time to do it. I figured I would write a little bit about this journey…and maybe you too can rest a little more peacefully this year knowing that your will is finished.
• Last Will and Testament: A fancy and redundant way of saying “will.” Lawyers and clients like the formal resonance of the language. Will and testament mean the same thing. A document will be the “last” will if the maker of it dies before writing another one. It is usually a large, multi-page document that spells out all your wishes and plans for your family and things when you die.
• Power of Attorney: A written document signed by a person giving another person the power to act in conducting the signer’s business, including signing papers, checks, title documents, contracts, handling bank accounts and other activities in the name of the person granting the power. There are two types of powers of attorney: a) general power of attorney which covers all activities, and b) special power of attorney which grants powers limited to specific matters, such as selling a particular piece of real estate, handling some bank accounts, or executing a limited partnership agreement. A power of attorney may expire on a date stated in the document or upon written cancellation. Usually the signer acknowledges before a notary public that he/she executed the power, so that it is recordable if necessary, as in a real estate transaction. (Most people will name their spouse as “Power of Attorney” and then a second person will be listed as well…just in case your spouse dies at the same time you do.)
• Living Will (or Health Care Directive): A document in which the signer states his or her wishes regarding medical treatment, especially treatment that sustains or prolongs life by extraordinary means, for use if the signer becomes mentally incompetent or unable to communicate.
• Notary Public: A person legally empowered to witness and certify the validity of documents and to take affidavits and depositions. They must see proof of identity (e.g. driver’s license) of those swearing and keep an official journal of documents notarized. The authority is good only in the state which appoints the notary. So, ask around…you might know someone that is an official notary (we knew three people who had the ability to notarize our documents and we didn’t even know it until we asked).
• Witness: A person (or persons) who sign a document attesting the genuineness of its execution and that the owner of the document is of sound mind and judgement at the time the document is presented (basically, no one is forcing you to give away all your assets without your knowledge and consent). For all three documents (Last Will and Testaments, Living Will (Health Care Directive) and Power of Attorney) you will need to find two witnesses that are not listed in any of the documents…so there is no “conflict of interest”.
I know death is a difficult thing to consider and discuss, and no one really wants to ponder what will happen after a loved one dies. It is that precise reason why over 70% of adults don’t have a will. I would like to encourage you to approach it with grace and love for those around you…and take the time to get things in order today!!! Feel free to ask any questions if you get confused…