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A Success Story in Estate Planning: Estate Plan Offers Major Benefits, Even Before Death

An August 5th article in the Appleton Post Crescent highlights what many estate planning attorneys already know, but is a lesson well worth repeating: namely, that your estate plan can provide essential assistance to your family long before you die, and that the time for estate planning is before you or your spouse encounter a problem, not after. By having a proper plan in place, you can provide for yourself and your family in the event you become mentally incapacitated.

The Post Crescent article tells the story of Bill and Carol Fenrich. Bill Fenrich began displaying symptoms of diminished memory. Even though Fenrich passed a memory test required for the couple’s long-term care insurance, they decided to move forward with planning their estates, including creating powers of attorney and living wills. Ultimately, Fenrich died as a result of complications from frontal temporal dementia.

Although Fenrich’s illness did not lead to a prolonged period in which his mental function was so diminished by his dementia that he was unable to make decisions for himself, the couple’s situation provides a clear warning. The husband’s condition clearly could have created a situation in which he was alive, but his mental capacity was so severely diminished by his illness that he could not make decisions for himself. Furthermore, this state could have existed for years. However, by ensuring they had an estate plan in place before problems arose, the Fenrichs had the peace of mind of knowing that they were prepared regardless of the direction the husband’s dementia took. “I am very grateful that all the necessary documents were in place at the time of Bill’s final illness,” Carol Fenrich told the Post Crescent.

A power of attorney for health care allows the person you designate (your “agent”) to make medical care decisions for you when you cannot. This document also allows you to create a “HIPAA authorization” that gives your doctor permission to speak to your family about your medical condition. Additionally, a Living Will allows you to specify certain treatment decisions, such as providing or withholding care, in cases where treatment could only delay the moment of death. Through this planning, you can clarify your goals regarding extending your life versus your current quality of life.

Your advance planning also can greatly simplify your loved ones’ lives with regard to managing your money. A power of attorney for finances will allow the agent you designate to continue to pay your bills, invest your money and buy or sell your assets, depending on the power you give him/her.

Additionally, a revocable living trust may provide substantial benefits in this area. Should you have a fully funded living trust and become incapacitated, the successor trustee you selected in advance would take over the management of your trust, meaning that he/she would be able to continue managing and directing all of the assets held by your trust. Without any of these advance estate plan devices in place, your family could face the potentially expensive and stressful prospect of going to court to have a judge name a guardian for you.

Advance planning has the potential to provide many benefits, not the least of which is the reassurance of knowing that you are prepared for any scenario. To obtain experienced legal advice and assistance in crafting your estate plan, contact Madison estate planning attorney Daniel J. Krause of Krause Law Offices LLC. He has the skills and experience to ensure that you will be able to enjoy the peace of mind that comes with having a complete estate plan to protect your family. Consult Attorney Daniel J. Krause to get your plan started today.

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