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An unexpected, serious medical diagnosis can be emotionally draining and overwhelming. You may not know where to turn. As you navigate your options, we encourage you to make sure your personal and estate-related affairs are in order. Our team understands that estate planning is likely the last issue you want to deal with during this difficult time, but it is extremely important to make sure your estate is in order and your wishes are heard. This is especially true when it comes to medical treatments you may or may not want to receive in the future should you become incapacitated.
Here are the estate planning tools you should consider if you fall suddenly ill:
- Last Will And Testament. At the very least, we encourage you to look at your Will and ensure that it reflects your current sentiments. If you have any dependents, you will want to make sure they have guardians in place who are ready and willing to take responsibility. You will also want to check that all of your important assets are included and distributed according to your wishes.If you die without a Last Will and Testament, you are giving up the power to control who will receive the assets, held in your sole name, that you have accumulated during your life. The Maryland laws of intestacy will determine both who will receive these assets and who will settle your affairs after your death
- Advance Directive. In the state of Maryland, an Advance Directive is an estate planning document that allows you to appoint another person to make medical decisions for you, should you become incapacitated and cannot communicate for yourself. It also allows you to dictate what level of treatment you would like to receive in certain serious health care situations if you are unable to communicate for yourself.An Advance Directive puts you in control of your medical care and helps alleviate the burden placed upon loved ones who would otherwise be forced to make decisions on your behalf with no knowledge of your wishes.
- Financial Power of Attorney. A Financial Power of Attorney is a legal document in which you give a person (your Attorney-In-Fact) the authority to handle financial matters on your behalf. Your financial matters can include—but are not limited to—access and authority over your bank accounts, investments, real estate, retirement accounts, life insurance policies, and other assets. A Financial Power of Attorney can also allow a person to pay your bills and handle your taxes.A Financial Power of Attorney allows you to put someone you trust in control of your financial affairs, especially if you should become incapacitated or disabled and are no longer able to make decisions for yourself. When you designate your Attorney-In-Fact in a Financial Power of Attorney, you are likely to avoid the lengthy and expensive process of a guardianship proceeding, if you should become incapacitated. Guardianship is the court process of appointing someone to manage the personal or financial affairs of a minor or an incapacitated adult.
- Retirement Accounts & Life Insurance Policies. Although retirement accounts and life insurance policies are not specifically estate planning tools, we include them in our recommendations because it is extremely important that you update your beneficiaries on your accounts.If you pass away without updating your beneficiaries, the money and benefits will go to whoever was designated at the time of your passing, or to the default beneficiaries. In the case where a significant life change has occurred, such as a remarriage where your beneficiary designation does not reflect your new spouse, assets can pass in unintended ways.
At Sessa & Dorsey, we consider the bigger picture at hand and advise our clients on the best estate planning tools for their specific needs and desires. If you have questions about estates and trusts, please contact us at (443) 589-5600.
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