In an effort to preserve and build intergenerational wealth through homeownership, Community Legal Services (“CLS”) offers estate planning to clients who own their homes. Estate planning is essential tool for all individuals regardless of wealth. These documents allow you to make your wishes known to your loved ones and medical providers. Estate planning ensures your family home remains in your family for generations to come and can prevent tangled titles from happening in the future.
CLS advocates will assist clients in preparing three legal documents that make up an estate plan: power of attorney, healthcare directive, and a will. A description of each document is below.
Power of Attorney: A power of attorney is a written legal document which authorizes a person (called an “agent”) to handle certain types of financial and business transactions for the person who signs the power of attorney (who is called the “principal”). The power of attorney document says exactly which kinds of transactions the agent is allowed to perform. A power of attorney is no longer valid and cannot be used after the death of the principal. An agent under a power of attorney does not have the authority to administer the principal’s estate.
Healthcare Directive: An advanced healthcare directive (also called a “living will”) is a legal document in which you say which kinds of medical treatment you do or do not want in the event that you become terminally ill and are not able to express your wishes. In this document you will also name a person to make medical decisions for you if you are not able to do it yourself. This person is called a “health care proxy”.
Will: A will is a legal document which says who will inherit your property and possessions after your death. In the will, you name a person to administer your estate. This person, who is called the “executor”, collects the assets in the estate, pays the estate’s debts and distributes the remaining assets to the beneficiaries named in the will.
It is important to know that in order to execute a will, a living will or a power of attorney, a person must have the mental capacity to understand the terms of the document. If the person does not have this capacity and needs someone to handle their affairs or make decisions for them, they may need a guardian to be appointed.