Posted by: Heinz  Brisske

We have long advocated the importance of proactive estate planning. Failing to plan, as the old saw goes, is planning to fail. Now NAELA, the National Academy of ELder Law Attorneys, has forcefully weighed in on the subject. For thosoe that have never heard of NAELA,  it is a professional association of attorneys serving seniors, people with disabilities, and their families*.

PRWeb, in an article published on February 21, 2014, reported that NAELA compiled a list of the most important legal documents that every American should have. For purposes of this post, I will use the Illinois equivalent of the four documents mentioned by NAELA:

  • Durable Power of Attorney for Property
  • Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care
  • Living Will
  • Will

The sub-title of the PRWeb article says it all: Planning ahead is key to stress-free retirement and aging.

It is important to understand that the first three documents listed are statutory documents; in other words, the bare bones forms are written into the law and thus available to anyone who wants to use them. Please know that, without modification and enhancement, those forms may not accomplish their purpose in many situations. We repeatedly represent clients who have no Powers of Attorney, or inadequate Powers of Attorney, thus making it impossible for us to engage in necessary planning and, often as a result, forcing us to file Guardianship proceedings.

Likewise, the documents listed above are the bare basics of documents that everyone should have. Another very important advance health care directive is a HIPAA Authorization. HIPAA, more formally known as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, is a federal law that guarantees the privacy of your health care information. In a HIPAA Authorization, you can name agents who will have appropriate access to your health care information.

For many, a Will that requires probate upon death, is insufficient to accomplish their goals of reducing administration expenses, providing for efficient estate administration, avoiding probate, and making things easy on their loved ones. For them, a Revocable Living Trust is an important part of an effective estate plan.

Whatever your financial and family situation, and regardless of your overall estate planning goals, we strongly suggest that you heed the the advice given by NAELA. Give your family the gift of an estate well-planned.

* Members of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) are attorneys who are experienced and trained in working with the legal problems of aging Americans and individuals of all ages with disabilities. Established in 1987, NAELA is a non-profit association that assists lawyers, bar organizations, and others. The mission of NAELA is to establish NAELA members as the premier providers of legal advocacy, guidance, and services to enhance the lives of people with special needs and people as they age. NAELA currently has members across the United States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom.