Last time we spoke about Estate Planning, Wills and Powers of Attorney, the WGN phones lit up and Bill Moller couldn’t get to but a fraction of the calls. Listen in to questions from Part Two with Bill Moller — every person needs to consider these things. You’ve got to be prepared for unexpected changes in your health, in your family, in your life! And if for no other reason, to just have the peace of mind that you are prepared for the unexpected.
Bill’s callers had quite a bit on their minds!
What’s a “Small Estate Affidavit?”
Karen from Urbana had met with an attorney who suggested a small estate affidavit. In Illinois (as in many other states) there’s a procedure that allows for transfer of assets without a formal probate proceeding in court – for estates valued under $100,000. The document is a 2-3 page affidavit that provides for a transfer from someone who has passed away onto somebody else.
Does a Power of Attorney Transfer to Other States?
Jim’s dad is a World War II vet. His dad’s in Wisconsin and he’s in Illinois. His lawyer is crafting a power of attorney to access his dad’s veteran benefits to pay for his senior care. Much of this involves follow-up with the VA. As an Illinois citizen, can Jim get a power of attorney for his father in Wisconsin and thereby walk into his local county veteran’s office and see his veteran’s file? It depends whether or not it’s authorized by the power of attorney – most do have ample provision to act on behalf of someone. Play it safe and make sure it specifically mentions the cross-state benefits clause, and make sure you have the power of attorney in your possession when going into the veteran’s office.
We Can’t Find the Will!
Lois’ brother passed away and while they have a copy of the will, they can’t find the original will; it’s not on file anywhere. Ideally have the attorney (who originally drafted the will) certify that the copy is in fact, the final will. If that can’t be done, you may need to file an affidavit with the court indicating that the will was signed properly. You may have to go through some probate proceeding to validate the will. Typically what happens is that if they can’t find the original will, it’s assumed to have been revoked.
I Have a Straightforward Estate – Can I Get My Will off the Internet?
Bill Moller wondered if someone doesn’t have a large estate, if it’s not that much money, if it’s not a complicated process—do you recommend some of those wills that you can just dial up on the internet? The problem is you don’t really know what you’re getting nor what they’re addressing. Most of the wills are so simple that they won’t do exactly what you want to. For example if you have minor children, and you draft one of those wills it will probably provide for an outright distribution for those children, even if they’re under 18. Generic internet documents are off the shelf and most likely do not address state law or your specific issues – you really need some level of customization. If there are no tax issues, the minimum you need to draft is a power of attorney, will, and some HIPPA releases, but there are so many unique issues, you should consult an attorney to make sure you’re not missing something important.
Does Power of Attorney Cover Removal from Dialysis? Do Not Resuscitate?
Maggie in Crystal Lake has a mother who is ill. Maggie has the power of attorney. At one point her mother had discussed that at a certain point she’d want to be taken off dialysis. She’s at that point now, although she’s not as coherent as they had hoped and she doesn’t have it in writing. Being her power of attorney, can Maggie make this decision for her? Yes, the power of attorney should authorize Maggie to make those medical decisions for her. One thing the power of attorney does not cover is the Do Not Resuscitate order. But if it’s removal from dialysis, the power of attorney should work.
My Siblings Are Sharing the Inheritance, But I’m the One Paying the Bills!
Cassandra’s mom died in 2009 and left her estate to all of her kids. Cassandra is the executor, paying for the bills and the siblings are paying…not so much. Cassandra can deduct expenses related to her mother’s passing (i.e., money for probate lawyer and to take lien off the house) out of the disbursement, before paying the other siblings their equal share. As long as she keeps detailed records, the court will see this favorably.
Bill advised, “Tell them you’ve talked to an attorney and that the other siblings need to pay up!”