Natasha Richardson's ski accident has reminded us of the precariousness of life -- you can be perfectly healthy one minute, and in a hospital bed the next. Many moms in the office began thinking ... if tragedy struck, would we be ready? An attorney lays down the law.
Attorney Robin Sax says every mother should have four things: a living trust, a pour over will, a power of attorney (financial), and an advance directive for health care.
1. Living Trust: This says where your assets go when you die and who manages them. You should try to transfer your assets to the trust when you establish it, so that if you lose capacity, those assets can be managed by the successor trustee (typically the husband) without the need for a conservatorship. You want to avoid conservatorships -- they are court-supervised, public and expensive processes where the court oversees how your assets are handled for you. All your assets are listed in court documents, what money is spent on is listed -- things to be avoided.
2. Pour-Over Will: Through probate, transfers assets to your Living Trust when you die. Probate is also something to be avoided -- to do so, make sure the assets are transferred into the name of the Living Trust when it is created.
3. Power of Attorney (Financial): This gives someone (typically the husband) the power to manage assets for you. If done as a "springing" power (i.e., one that "springs" into existence when you lose capacity), you can keep control until something like what happened to Natasha happens -- then the power allows the husband to handle assets. It's a good idea to allow the husband to transfer assets to the Living Trust -- this allows a conservatorship to be avoided in the event the assets weren't transferred when the Living Trust was established.
4. Advance Directive for Health Care: This allows someone (typically the husband) to make medical decisions for you if you can't make them yourself. This also will help your family avoid the Terry Schaivo disaster about end-of-life decisions because those are set forth in this document.
Do you have your affairs in order?
|Robin Sax is a former Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney who specialized in prosecuting sex crimes against children. She is the author of six books including "Predators and Child Molesters: What Every Parent Needs to Know To Keep Kids Safe." Robin lives with her husband and three children in Los Angeles, California.|