This is a continuation of our Estate Planning Series posted the 4th Wednesday of the month. Below are portions of an interview with estate planning attorney, John Kenney located in Poulsbo, WA.

JASON PARKER: Okay, I know there are different levels of estate planning depending on people’s needs, but what are the basic documents that everyone should have regardless of the level of wealth he
or she has?

JOHN KENNEY: Sure. I will go through them and then I will circle back and explain why. At minimum, everyone should have a will and a financial power of attorney, also called a durable power of attorney. You should also have a healthcare power of attorney and a living will. Another document you’ll need is a HIPAA authorization, which is now required by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

A will basically does two primary things for a person: it divides your property according to your wishes, and if you have minor children, it will name guardians for those children. Without it, the State or courts will decide how your property is distributed and who will take care of your minor children if you, or your spouse, pass away.

The financial power of attorney, which is often called a durable power of attorney, gives someone else the power to make decisions for you if you become incapacitated and are unable to manage your own financial or legal affairs because of a legal condition, a health condition, or some other thing that is affecting your capacity to make decisions.

The document will assign an agent or attorney-in-fact to make those decisions for the individual who is incapacitated. Without it, the State will decide how your legal and financial affairs are going to be managed, and the State will appoint someone to do that for you.

Some people say, “Well, I don’t care; let the State decide,” but the process of letting the State decide can be very expensive for anyone you’ve left behind. Whereas, creating a will and/or durable power of attorney would allow your family to avoid that unnecessary expense and avoid allowing the state to take the control out of your hands.

A WORD OF CAUTION! Estate planning and the laws around this subject are unique to the state in which you live. Because most of the people I serve are here in Washington State, I focused on the issues in Washington State. Obviously if you are reading this outside of Washington State, you should consult with an expert estate planning attorney in your area.

The opinions and information voiced in this material are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. Please consult a licensed estate planning attorney BEFORE taking any action.

Luce, Lineberry & Kenney ps
Attorneys at Law
John Kenney, LLM
17791 Fjord Dr NE Suite 154
Poulsbo, WA 98370-8482
(360) 850-1049

Sherrard, McGonagle, Tizzano
Attorneys at Law, Est. 1954
Richard C. Tizzano, PS
19717 Front Street
PO Box 400
Poulsbo, WA 98370
(360) 697-7132