Wills are the best-known of all estate planning documents. They are the documents that grab the headlines when someone famous dies. Yet, a will alone is not enough to cover your full estate planning needs.
Wills only detail what happens once you are dead
While it is crucial to set out how you wish to transfer your estate when you die, you need to remember that death is not always instantaneous. Nor does it always come out of the blue.
An accident or illness could cost you many of your physical and mental capacities. Yet you may still live on for years. You may need expensive health care or to enter residential accommodation. A will does not account for that. Here are two documents which can:
- A durable power of attorney: Your family needs to carry on life when you are ill. They will need to access bank accounts, make payments and other transactions. If you are no longer capable of putting pen to paper or understanding documents to sign, then someone else needs the power to do this.
- An advanced health care directive: Imagine you have a near-fatal car crash. You once told your wife you would hate to be kept alive by machines in a hospital. Yet your children cannot bear to lose you. They want the medics to try and keep you alive through life support. Who gets to choose? You can use an advanced health care directive to set out your wishes. You can also delegate a person to make health care decisions for you.
A will helps you look after your family when you die. Yet it will not help you look after each other if you are still alive.