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5 forms to complete sooner rather than later

1. Durable financial power of attorney

You give someone else the authority to act on your behalf. It is an essential document, as important as your will. Without it your spouse or close relatives will need a court order to act on your behalf.

Once this document is signed, your named agent is authorized to do as much or as little as you have stipulated.

For example: pay living expenses, collect social security, invest, run your business, claim property, transfer assets, etc.

You do not have to be incapacitated to need this document; simply being away on vacation allows your agent to act. There are laws that obligate your agent to perform in your best interests.

2. Your will

Details of North Carolina’s Will Requirements can be found at http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/gascripts/statutes/StatutesTOC.pl?Chapter=0031

The basics are:  Any person of sound mind, and 18 years of age or over, may make:

An attested written will signed by testator and at least two competent witnesses.

Or

A will entirely in the handwriting of the testator subscribed by the testator, or with his name written on the will in his own handwriting, and found after the testator’s death deposited by him in a place of safekeeping.

Or

A nuncupative will made orally by a person who is in imminent peril of death and who does not survive sickness or peril, and is declared to be his will before two competent witnesses.

Wills do not necessarily cover beneficiary designations. Joint accounts or “payable on death” policies fall to the surviving account holder or beneficiary stated on the account, regardless of what the will says. Divorce, marriage, birth, or beneficiary death should prompt a review of your accounts, particularly IRA and similar assets.

3. A living trust

A will becomes effective on your death, but a living trust can become effective during your lifetime. You choose a trustee and when you transfer assets into the trust and execute the signature documents, the trustee then controls the trust. One advantage of this arrangement is that there is no probate debate or wait-time on your death; the trust is already in operation.

4. A living will

A living will spells out what kind of healthcare you want or do not want should you become unable to speak for yourself.

It is directed mainly at end-of-life choices: Do you want life-prolonging treatments such as blood transfusions, dialysis, drugs, respirator, surgery, even food and water?

A living will has nothing to do with control of your assets.

5. Health Care Directives

The North Carolina Department of the Secretary of State’s Advance Health Care Directive Registry http://www.secretary.state.nc.us/ahcdr/Forms.aspx has these forms available:

ν Advance Instruction For Mental Health Treatment

ν Organ/Tissue Donor Card

ν Advance Directive for a Natural Death

ν Health Care Power of Attorney.

ν You may also choose a separate “Do Not Resuscitate”Order.

— Len Clark

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