Probate, Wills & Estates
The Probate Court is where you must go to resolve issues relating to a decedent's estate.
There are many simple (but critical) things you can do to make the legal issues surrounding your death simpler on the loved ones you leave behind. Nobody likes to think about death, but with some simple planning, you can make things a lot easier on the ones you leave behind. In my opinion, the minimum necessary documents you need are:
--A Living Will
--A Durable Power of Attorney
--A Health Care Power of Attorney
Please do not leave these most important documents to some online "service" or a "will kit". For about the same price, I can go over your plans and wishes and construct documents tailored for YOUR needs. I have also seen some "kits" that had wrong advice in them! BE CAREFUL! For a basic will, power of attorney, living will AND a health care power of attorney I charge just $300.00 per person or $500.00 a couple.
Most of us remember the tragic case of Terri Scheivo. She suffered severe brain damage and there was a huge, national fight over what her wishes were and who should make the decisions about her care. Her husband or her parents? What were her wishes? If she had a proper living will and healthcare power of attorney, these issues would not have wound up on the desk of the President and in Congress.
Here is an overview of what these documents are*:
1. Your Will. In a will you will express your final wishes; most commonly you will say how you want your estate (property, money, assets and other things) divided. It is useful too to give instructions about your funeral and how you want your remains handled. Also, it is very helpful to list life insurance policies or other "secret" bank accounts or assets.
2. A Durable Power of Attorney. A Power of Attorney (PoA) allows someone else to act on your behalf. A "durable" PoA remains (or becomes) valid even if you are disabled and unable to handle your affairs. It allows someone to access your bank and other interests (insurance, bills, storage sheds, employment records, contracts, etc.); it can be as general or specific as you desire. So if you wind up in a coma your PoA will allow someone to handle your affairs.
3. A Living Will. These are also refered to as "Advanced Medical Directives", but "Living Will" seems to be the most common name. This document is vital if you want your end of life wishes known. It basicially lets people know if you want life support, feeding tubes, etc.
4. Health Care Power of Attorney. A Health Care Power of Attorney (HCPoA) is a lot like a combination of numbers 2 & 3 above. It lets you appoint someone to make health care decisions for you and to be the spokesperson for your wishes.
The Living Will and Health Care Power of Attorney can be downloaded for FREE from the S.C. Office on Aging's website.