Wills – The Basics
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Documents Used in the Will Process
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There are generally four documents that are used in the will process. These four documents are: (1) the will of last testament, (2) living will, (3) durable power of attorney for legal matters, and (4) durable power of attorney for health matters. Let’s go over the function of these documents.

1. Will (i.e. Conventional will)

This is the document that we’ve been talking about this entire article. It is the written and formalized document used to devise your property and assets upon your death.

2. Living Will

A "living will" has nothing to do with the will we have been talking about in this article. Rather, a "living will" is a legal document that gives instructions to medical personnel in the event of severe injury or terminal illness of the testator.

A living will is used for situations when the testator would be unable to make medical decisions for him or herself. It is called a ""living will" because the testator is still alive when the instructions are carried out (although sometimes only medically alive). In general, the main decision to make with a living will is whether you want all medical treatment to be used to try to keep you alive, or not. Living wills are also revocable (just like traditional wills), which means the testator can change the living will up until the point of becoming incapacitated. However, what is considered to be "incapacitated" varies. This is a document where it would be highly recommended to use the services of a lawyer.

3. Durable Power of Attorney for Legal Matters

A durable power of attorney for legal matters is a document where the testator gives another person the power to make legal decisions for the testator upon becoming incapacitated. There are two main versions in how this document is set up.

The first (and more common) version makes the document effective only upon the court’s determination that the testator is incapacitated. Until the court makes that decision, the testator retains complete control of all of his or her legal matters.

The second version is effective immediately upon the signature of the testator. All legal decisions concerning the testator are immediately granted to the person whom the testator chooses. The court will not get involved or make a determination about the testator’s capacity. This second version should be used with caution, because the person whom the testator appoints may legally be able to sell the testator’s house immediately after the document is signed by the testator.

4. Durable Power of Attorney for Health Matters

A durable power of attorney for health matters is document where the testator allows another individual to make certain health care decisions for the testator. The person selected by the testator to make such health care decisions usually does not gain that power until and if the testator becomes incapacitated. Upon incapacitation of the testator, the person selected by the testator to deal with the testator’s health matters may be able to make such decisions as disconnecting life support, and agreeing to certain medical procedures.

Next, we’ll look at why a will might not be the best way to devise your property.

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