The Importance of Basic Estate Planning

Posted on October 2, 2012 by

Many adults mistakenly believe that they do not need any estate planning documents.Every adult should have three important documents: a durable power of attorney; an advance medical directive; and a last will and testament.  These documents need to be prepared while the adult is competent. Even healthy young adults should have these documents as incapacity can come not only over time as a result of advanced age, but can also come suddenly and unexpectedly as a result of an accident or illness.

Power of Attorney

A power of attorney authorizes someone (your “agent”) to act in your place and on your behalf. A typical ‘general’ power of attorney covers your property and your financial affairs. This document allows your agent to do such things as access your finances to pay your bills, rent or sell your real property, purchase things you may need and file suit on your behalf.  It is effective only while you are aliveand therefor not a substitute for a will.  For most clients I recommend a broad general power of attorney appointing a primary agent and one or two backup agents to serve in the event the primary agent is unable to.   A simple separate agreement outlines the terms and conditions of use.  It is important to make sure the power of attorney is “durable” – meaning that it survives your incapacity, as most people would only want an agent to act on their behalf in the event of incapacity.

When a person becomes incompetent and does not have a power of attorney, in order to handle that person’s financial affairs, the family members often must petition the court to have a conservator appointed for the incapacitated person.  The court process is more cumbersome and typically results in a time delay, additional expenses (i.e., attorney fees, and court costs), lack of privacy, restrictions on actions, and a duty to file accountings through the court. It may also result in a fight amongst your loved ones as to who should be appointed.

Advance Medical Directive

An advance medical directive is a combination of a health care power of attorney and a living will. It covers your person (i.e. your body) instead of your property and finances.  For my clients I recommend that it also include a statement of their wishes concerning organ and tissue donation.

This health care power of attorney authorizes someone (your “agent”) to make medical decisions for you when you are unable to make them for yourself. It is effective only while you are alive.  For most clients I recommend a broad health care power of attorney appointing a primary agent and one or two backup agents to serve in the event the primary agent is unable to.  The document allows your agent to do such things as authorize treatment, hire medical providers, authorize your admission into a hospital, deal with you insurance company, obtain medical records (HIPAA release).

When a person becomes incompetent and does not have a health care power of attorney the family members often must petition the court to have a guardian appointed for the incapacitated person.  The court process is more cumbersome and typically results in a time delay, additional expenses (i.e., attorney fees, and court costs), lack of privacy, and restrictions on actions. It may also result in a fight amongst your loved ones as to who should be appointed.  It is common for the petition to the court to be for the appointment of a guardian and a conservator.

A living will expresses your wishes concerning the use of life-support and end-of-life decisions when you are terminally ill or in a persistent vegetative state from which there can be no recovery.  It must be a clear and concise statement of your wishes. A living will allows death with dignity when life support would only prolong the dying process; it does not prevent you from receiving life support if there is a chance of recovery.  The living will only comes into use when you are unable to form your own decisions.  So long as you are still competent you are still the one making the decisions, even if you are terminally ill.  This document allows you to express what treatments you wish to receive or not receive. For example, you may want to receive artificial nutrition and hydration but not be placed on a respirator.  Most of my clients choose to include a statement specifically allowing “comfort care” to alleviate pain and suffering.

When a person becomes terminally ill or is in a persistent vegetative state from which there is no hope of recovery and they have not executed a living will, the decisions fall to his or her next of kin. Many times this leaves the next of kin in a very difficult position, especially if the patient is young and the situation is unexpected – as is the case of a tragic accident. Often times the family does not agree on what to do, or feel guilty if they authorize the withdrawal of treatment knowing that it will result in death. Frequently I have clients that do not want the decision making left to next of kin. Many clients have “significant others” or “life partners” that are not legally their next of kin but are the ones that should be making the decisions. If the next of kin does not approve of the relationship, often times the significant other is not even allowed to be present let alone involved in the decision-making process.

Without a clear and concise statement of your wishes you could be setting your loved ones up for a nightmare.  Remember Terri Schiavo, the young Florida woman who, in 1990, at the age of 27, suffered brain damage after going into cardiac arrest.  In 1998, after eight years on a feeding tube her husband sought to remove the life support and her parents objected. For the next seven years her loved ones fought. The case involved 14 appeals and numerous motions, petitions, and hearings in the Florida courts; five suits in federal district court; Florida legislation struck down by the Supreme Court of Florida; federal legislation (the Palm Sunday Compromise); and four denials of certiorari from the Supreme Court of the United States.  Sadly, when she passed away in March of 2005, a few days after her feeding tube was removed, her parents were not allowed to be her side due to the strained relationship between them and her husband.

Organ and Tissue Donation.  A person who has a preference concerning organ and tissue donation should be sure that those wishes are specified.  Most often your loved ones are in a state of shock, disbelief and grief when faced with the need to make decisions about donation. You can provide them with some comfort if they know what your wishes are.

Last Will and Testament

A properly drafted last will and testament can save time and expense in the settlement of your estate. It provides rules to follow and can help avoid conflict and problems amongst your loved ones. In you will you can specify such things as who should raise your children, who receives what items of your property (both real and personal), who handles the settlement of your estate, who handles funds held in trust for a minor beneficiary, and  under what restrictions can trust funds be used for the beneficiary.

 

Categories: Estate Planning
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Anastasia Eddleton
Anastasia Eddleton
Colleen and her legal team are top notch, friendly, efficient and would 100% reccomend and/or use again
Katie Oakes
Katie Oakes
We worked with attorney Colleen Quinn who is a AAAA adoption attorney. She is very knowledgeable about adoption as well as a very personable attorney. She helped guide us through a smooth adoption process. Her paralegal Charli is pretty amazing as well. We appreciate everything that you did for us. I also think your pricing is very affordable!!!!
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Michelle Bower
The team at Locke & Quinn are the best.
Rene Haines
Rene Haines
I had a personal injury case that no one else would take, except Colleen. She was sensitive, comforting, professional, and very efficient. I am so pleased with her service and I highly recommend her and her team.
Susan Oliver
Susan Oliver
Grateful to work with Colleen again on our second private adoption in 4 years! Thankful for her timeliness, effective commmunication, and outstanding staff.
Michelle Spencer
Michelle Spencer
So thrilled to work with Colleen Quinn once again for our second private adoption! Especially appreciate the timely, attentive, and effective communication with Colleen and her staff.
Michelle Spencer
Michelle Spencer
Stepdaughter adoption- My 8yr old daughter's biological father moved to another country. After 4 yrs and little to no contact I thought there was no way this would happen without a big headache. Well, I was wrong; to say everything I need t say I will give in bullet points: Caring, Personable, Upfront, Follow-up, Efficient, Economical, Experienced and Awesome.
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Chris Perdue
As a client of Colleen Quinn I immediately knew her confidence and knowledge was what I needed for my medical malpractice suit. When 5 other Attorneys told me I had no case and wouldn't even listen to me, Colleen took time with me and immediately knew we had to go for it. 3 years later we have triumphed. She and her wonderful team had my back, supported me, and cheered me on the whole way. They never left my side, doubted me or stopped believing in me. Let the next chapter begin. I would definitely recommend Locke & Quinn. Thank you Colleen!!
Melissa Herring
Melissa Herring
I can't say enough good things about Colleen and her team. They have handled 2 step parent adoptions for us and 1 for a friend. Colleen is upfront about her plans for your case and made me feel very confident about our outcome. Charli her assistant is amazing and answered any questions I had quickly. If you are looking for a attorney who truly invests themselves in their work and really knows what they are doing you want Colleen.
Brandi Witherspoon
Brandi Witherspoon
My husband and I just recently finalized the adoption of our son thanks to Colleen! Our situation happened FAST, and Colleen never missed a beat. Colleen, Katie and Charli were all quick to answer any questions we had and made us feel confident in their ability to provide the services needed. We were blown away at the knowledge and organization Colleen had throughout this process as well! We intend to continue to grow our family through adoption again, and will be using Locke & Quinn!
Ashley Halsey
Ashley Halsey
My husband and I would definatly recomend Coleen for step parent adoptions. The process was quick and went smoothly. Her assistant Charlie was extremly helpful during the process as well. All and all they were extremly knowledgable on what needed to be done during the process which I feel made things go smoothly.
Bathsheba Colinborough
Bathsheba Colinborough
My wife and I worked with Colleen Quinn and her paralegal Charli (CharSalle) on my daughter's international re-adoption. We are in Fairfax, VA and they were happy to work with us even though we weren’t local to them. Everything was done by email and mail. They answered all of our questions in a timely manner and were very knowledgeable about the process. We worked almost entirely with Charli after the initial emails and phone calls and she was great to work with. They filed all of our paperwork with our court, everything went smoothly, and we received our Final Order. Charli has always kept us in the loop about the process and sent us updates. We mailed original documents back and forth without any issue. Their legal fee was very competitive and better than most attorneys in our own area. We are very pleased with their work and assistance in getting our adoption finalized. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them to anyone. Thank you!
Ahmed Rashid
Ahmed Rashid
My wife and I worked with Colleen Quinn and her paralegal Charli (CharSalle) on my daughter's international re-adoption. We are in Fairfax, VA and they were happy to work with us even though we weren’t local to them. Everything was done by email and mail. They answered all of our questions in a timely manner and were very knowledgeable about the process. We worked almost entirely with Charli after the initial emails and phone calls and she was great to work with. They filed all of our paperwork with our court, everything went smoothly, and we received our Final Order. Charli has always kept us in the loop about the process and sent us updates. We mailed original documents back and forth without any issue. Their legal fee was very competitive and better than most attorneys in our own area. We are very pleased with their work and assistance in getting our adoption finalized. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them to anyone. Thank you!
Ahmed R
Ahmed R
Great experience!! Everything I needed they took care of with a timely fashion! Highly recommend!
Morgan Williams Seay
Morgan Williams Seay
They were very professional and helpful with my unique case for the adoption of my son. I would recommend Colleen Quinn and her team to anybody that is looking for adoption.
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Nate Davenport
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Bob Stiepock
Bob Stiepock
Personal Injury is a challenging event on many levels in ones life. Have you experienced a moment where you were injured and need to seek legal advice? You need to make a call to Colleen Quinn today. I began to research different law firms that handled Personal Injury. I interviewed several attorneys and spoke with large practices to small firms. I was impressed by Colleens resume and her work with women and the law. I will never regret hiring Colleen and her TEAM. The word TEAM is exactly what I received through out my case. My case was attacked with professionalism and the team was always in communication with me. When I would call to ask questions or to get a better explanation I was always made to feel as if I was the only client. As my case arrived closer to the trail date, my TEAM went into full 110%+ effort and preparation. Colleen was ALWAYS seeking to settle my case with the best outcome that she could. YOU WILL NOT FIND A MORE UPFRONT, HONEST, HARDWORKING-GET IT DONE ATTITUDE THAN THE TEAM OF COLLEEN M. QUINN!! MAKE THAT CALL TODAY-YOU WONT REGET IT!!
Lisa Moore Walker
Lisa Moore Walker
Personal Injury is a challenging event on many levels in ones life. Have you experienced a moment where you were injured and need to seek legal advice? You need to make a call to Colleen Quinn today. I began to research different law firms that handled Personal Injury. I interviewed several attorneys and spoke with large practices to small firms. I was impressed by Colleens resume and her work with women and the law. I will never regret hiring Colleen and her TEAM. The word TEAM is exactly what I received through out my case. My case was attacked with professionalism and the team was always in communication with me. When I would call to ask questions or to get a better explanation I was always made to feel as if I was the only client. As my case arrived closer to the trail date, my TEAM went into full 110%+ effort and preparation. Colleen was ALWAYS seeking to settle my case with the best outcome that she could. YOU WILL NOT FIND A MORE UPFRONT, HONEST, HARDWORKING-GET IT DONE ATTITUDE THAN THE TEAM OF COLLEEN M. QUINN!! MAKE THAT CALL TODAY-YOU WONT REGET IT!!
beLIeVE Fitness
beLIeVE Fitness
Sharon Robertson Dewitt
Sharon Robertson Dewitt
After doing quite a bit of research on the adoption process, we decided to set up an initial consultation with Colleen, and we found that first session very beneficial and informative. There were many things that impressed us about Colleen from the very beginning: her level of expertise and reputation as an adoption attorney, the accolades she's received throughout her career, her friendly and personable nature, and her willingness to provide us with comprehensive information about the adoption process including projected fees. We also wanted to make sure that we were being well represented and advocated for, and quickly knew that Colleen would not only guide us through the adoption process, but advocate for us as well. Colleen is both passionate about what she does and compassionate toward all parties involved in the adoption process.Colleen’s paralegal, CharSalle (Charli) is an absolute treasure! Charli was readily available to answer questions by phone or by email. She would reach out to us if there was a birth mother interested in speaking or meeting with us after reviewing our profile. We were matched with a birth mother in November 2014, and our daughter was born in February 2015. Colleen and Charli guided us through the initial meetings with the birth parents, the open adoption agreements, and they stayed in touch with us by phone and email when our daughter was born. Our adoption was finalized in six months, and we couldn’t be more pleased with the level of communication we received, and continue to receive, from Colleen and Charli as well as the level of expertise and true passion they have for guiding families through the adoption process. We highly recommend Colleen, Charli, and the staff at Locke & Quinn to anyone considering adoption!!!!
Joe Ana
Joe Ana
My wife and I adopted a babygirl in 2015. A friend of mine, whose daughter is lawyer, recommended Colleen Quinn. We went for our initial consultation and we could tell immediately that Colleen was very knowledgeable and professional. She went into detail and gave us the costs associated with the adoption as well as every single step in the process. Colleen is very welcoming and easy to talk to. We cannot leave this review without mentioning our primary contact, Colleen's paralegal, CharSalle Charles (Charli). Without Charli, I don't think we would have made it through the adoption. Charli was there anytime we called to answer our questions and to provide support for us. Charli even came to the hospital the day after our daughter was born, to handle all the paperwork between us and the birth mother. We truly thank Locke and Quinn and especially Charli for their hard work and support. Our adoption was even finalized a month in advance of the initial date set forth. We highly recommend Locke and Quinn to any looking to adopt!!!
Tierre Christmas
Tierre Christmas
Cathy Tyree Herb
Cathy Tyree Herb
Colleen and the team at Locke & Quinn was very helpful guiding us through our adoption with minimal issues - would recommend based on their knowledge and experience.
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Chris _
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Kim Miller

 

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