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Leading provider of online Wills, Power of Attorney, Living Wills and Memorials

Financial Estate Planning

PartingWishes.com is dedicated to providing services related to advance directives, including the creation of financial and estate planning documents such as wills (Last Will and Testament), Expatriate Wills, Living Wills and Power of Attorney.  Below are some questions and answers related to financial estate planning.

What is estate planning?

Estate planning is a lifelong process in which you evaluate your situation and plan for the future. It includes planning for your retirement, for the possibility of disability, and for death. The estate planning process requires that you consider a wide range of legal, financial, emotional, and logistical issues.  Proper estate planning will also allow you to minimize estate taxes and death taxes.

Estate planning can be a positive experience, since it involves reviewing your situation and planning for your future. Although most people also find it unpleasant to think about the possibility of disability or death, advance planning is also a way to show your love and to reduce potential distress later.

Because every person's situation is unique, there is no single "checklist" to follow for estate planning. Proper estate planning also includes financial planning.

Why do I need a will?

The vast majority of people do not have a Will.  Some people feel that they do not need one because they believe that the distribution of their estate is obvious.  Others find it to be too time consuming to get organized, find a lawyer, arrange appointments and attend meetings during their already busy schedules.  Many feel that the lawyers' fees surrounding the creation and maintenance of a Will are too expensive. 

Whatever your reason may be, you should know that it is extremely important that you have an up to date Will.  If you die without a Will, the courts will decide how your estate is distributed, and this may not be in the best interests of your loved ones.  It is impossible for us to know how your estate will be distributed, but we do know that if you have a Will, then the decisions are in your hands.

How do I create a will?

At PartingWishes.com we have removed the obstacles to writing a Will.  It is convenient, low cost, and simple.  The MyWill™ service will step you through a series of questions in a "wizard" format.  All questions are written in plain language, so you don't have to be a legal expert to create your own Will.  You simply answer the questions, complete the details, and we automatically and instantly format a document that forms the basis of a legal Will, custom-made for your local jurisdiction.  This can then be printed and signed in front of witnesses to become a legally binding document.  (In the future, we plan to allow you to sign your Will online using a secure digital signature, once this becomes a legally recognized method of signing a Will.)  There is also plenty of supplementary information to help answer all of your questions.

Furthermore, we allow your Will to be kept securely online at PartingWishes.com so that you can make unlimited updates for as long as you are a member here.  For example, if you have a significant change in your life you can revoke your previous Wills and create a new, dated, version.  If you have children, make a significant purchase, move houses, or get a pet --- all of your revised wishes can be captured in a new version of your Will.  Not only will you have a legal document, but it will always be kept up to date.

Who will care for our children?

All parents worry about what would happen to their children if both parents died. This concern draws many people to lawyers' offices to start the estate planning process. If one parent dies or becomes incapacitated, then usually the surviving parent will retain sole custody of any children, unless special circumstances exist. If both parents die, then usually there must be a court action to appoint a legal guardian for the children.

In such a proceeding, the court will always look first to the desires of the parents, preferably expressed in a will. The court is required to appoint a nominated person as guardian unless this would not be in the best interests of the child.

What is probate?

In a probate proceeding, the court oversees the process of identifying the deceased person's property, paying any debts, identifying the proper heirs, and distributing the property to them. Most of the actual work is done by an executor (usually a relative or friend of the deceased person), with the assistance of an attorney and often an accountant. Not all of a deceased person's property is subject to the probate process. Life insurance, retirement accounts, and "joint tenancy" property all pass directly to the appropriate beneficiary automatically, without any court confirmation. If the person created a "living trust" any property held in the trust is not subject to probate. A bank account or motor vehicle title may also specify a death beneficiary.

What is a Power of Attorney?

What if you were in a coma, or otherwise incapacitated such that you were unable to communicate?  Or struck with a disease or other tragedy which affected your mind?  Who should control your finances, or your assets?  A Power of Attorney document ensures that your wishes in these and other unexpected circumstances are heard, understood, and carried out to your specifications.

There are actually a few different types of Power of Attorney:

A "General Power of Attorney" is the authorization for another person to act on your behalf for legal, financial or business matters.  You may do this, for example, if you have emigrated and have ongoing legal or business matters to attend to.  In this case, it may be convenient to have an authorized person sign documents on your behalf.

A "Durable Power of Attorney" has the same authorization, but the powers continue to be effective even if you become mentally incapacitated or incompetent for any reason.  Of course, you must be competent before the Durable Power of Attorney is set up.  You can also set up a Durable Power of Attorney to only come into effect if or when you become mentally incompetent.

You can also create a "Power of Attorney for Healthcare" or "Advance Health Care Directive".  This gives the authority to a loved one to make healthcare decisions on your behalf.  For example, if you are critically ill a Power of Attorney for Healthcare could dictate whether or not you should receive life-sustaining treatment or medication.

How do I create a Power of Attorney?

You can create each of the above types of Power of Attorney, using the MyPowerOfAttorney™ and MyLivingWill™ services here at PartingWishes.com.  A simple wizard will lead you through the series of questions which need to be answered.  After you have completed the wizard, your answers will be formatted to form the basis of a legal Power of Attorney or Living Will document, which can then be printed, signed and witnessed.