Planning for death is a sombering, but necessary experience.  The importance of ensuring that those we leave behind are properly cared-for cannot be overstated.  And, planning for the future does not need to be a depressing or costly process.  Chris Davis assists dozens of people each year in these efforts.

Effective Planning: The Documents Every Person Needs

Effective estate planning normally involves three different documents.  Each serves a distinct and vital purpose:

Last Will and Testament

A Last Will is used to direct your assets, property, and monies to others upon the event of your death.  This is a simple concept to understand, and most people have had an experience with a Will, either their own or someone else's.  Despite the ease of understanding a Will's function, a lawyer is needed to ensure your Will does what you want.  Specific and particular wording is required to achieve the exact dispersal you want at your passing.  And, to be effective, numerous formalities must be followed when the Will is executed. 

Advance Directive / Living Will

An Advance Directive (i.e., "Living Will") empowers you to dicate the health care you will receive should you become terminally ill, terminally injured, or unconscious and unable to speak or communicate (for example, a coma).  Most people do not want to be kept alive for years upon years via machines.  An Advance Directive allows you control over these end-of-life situations.  Regardless of your age or your wealth-status, Mr. Davis recommends every adult have an Advance Directive.

Power of Attorney

A General Durable Power of Attorney is a document that will allow another person to act on your behalf.  The power you give can be very broad or very narrow.  For example, past clients have executed a power of attorney allowing a family-member to manage their bank accounts while they worked overseas.  Spouses often execute a power of attorney so that the other can act on his or her behalf if or when a tragedy occurs.  There are a myriad of reasons for utilizing a power of attorney: convenience, avoiding a guardianship through a probate court, peace of mind, and more.

Three Most Common Problems with Wills

# 1 | Outdated Will
If your Last Will was drafted in 1984 before you had children and before you bought your new home, then you must update it.  Most wills are not written to accommodate those types of momentous changes.  A good rule of hand is, if you marry or divorce, have a child, buy a new piece of real property, or a death occurs that may affect your will, speak with an attorney.

# 2 | Improperly Formalized Will
Alabama law requires certain types of witnesses and others be present at the execution of the will.  Problems often arise when individuals attempt to execute their own wills.  And, these problems likely won't be recognized until the person dies and the family attempts to probate the will.

# 3 | Ineffective Wording of Will
Many people attempt to draft their own wills.  Oftentimes, their attempts, though done with good intentions, do not effectively achieve the results they desire.