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Many long-term married couples believe they have the legal right to make financial and health care decisions for a spouse who becomes mentally and/or physically incapacitated due to severe illness or injury. For the benefit of older married couples, the elder lawyers at Giro & Associates, LLC would like to debunk that myth and offer professional assistance for all your estate planning needs.
Proactive estate planning is critical for ensuring one spouse has the legal authority to make decisions for an incapacitated partner. If a married couple has not completed the retirement estate planning process, and one spouse becomes incapacitated, a probate judge could select someone other than the non-incapacitated spouse as the decision-maker.
For example, HIPAA Privacy Rules could prevent access to an incapacitated spouse's medical records or stop you from consulting with the attending physician. Additionally, IRS guidelines prohibit the filing of joint income tax returns when one spouse is incapacitated and the other spouse does not have the legal authority to make decisions for them.
With people living well into their 80s and 90s, powers of attorney are one of the primary reasons New Jersey residents seek our assistance. Durable powers of attorney can legally authorize your spouse to take care of managing investments, paying bills, and other financial aspects of your life if you become severely disabled. A medical power of attorney is someone, like your spouse, that you entrust specifically to oversee medical treatments and make decisions regarding your health care. You could choose to have two powers of attorney, one for finances and one for your health care, if you wish.
You do not need to wait until you're retired to enact your estate plan. It's possible at any age and the sooner you begin the process, the simpler it is to make changes, if necessary.
A person's estate generally consists of, but is not limited to:
Estate planning ensures that a person's assets are distributed to individuals named in trusts or wills. Moreover, it reduces taxes and fees related to probate court processes, involving the establishment of a contingency plan intended to carry out the presumed desires of the person owning the estate.
In addition to stating specific instructions on what the estate owner wants to happen if they become physically and/or mentally incapacitated, an estate plan also sets forth the following:
Also called a medical power of attorney or a living will, an advance healthcare directive instructs individuals involved with your well-being regarding the kind of medical actions you want, in case you become incapacitated and cannot make proper decisions.
An AHCD is the combination of a medical power of attorney and a living will. A medical power of attorney allows you to designate an individual you trust to make your healthcare decisions for you. Living wills specify a person's medical preferences involving life support or end-of-life decisions.
Proactive estate planning ensures your loved ones can irrefutably receive what you want them to receive from your estate. If there are certain family members you wish to leave out of your will, you can include that statement in your estate planning documents.
Remember, should you become incapacitated and you don't have an estate plan authorized by our Hackensack law firm, New Jersey can step in and decide how your assets are divided among family members. This also means paying a probate court thousands of dollars to litigate the estate.
Nothing gives you peace of mind like knowing your wishes and assets aren't left to impersonal probate judges. Giro & Associates offers expert legal guidance to older New Jersey residents who haven't begun estate planning.
Let us help your loved ones avoid probate court with advice and guidance regarding wills, beneficiary designations, life insurance disbursements, and other matters you want decided in the event of an incapacitating illness or injury. Contact our law firm in Hackensack today to schedule a consultation appointment at your convenience.
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