7On your side: Wills & power of attorney - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

7 On Your Side: Wills and power of attorney

(Source: Wiki Commons/MGN Online) (Source: Wiki Commons/MGN Online)

Who knew how complicated death can be?

When you speak about wills, power of attorney, estate planning and such -- it's easy to convince yourself there's no rush. Yet, leaving such legal issues unresolved can make things harder for those you leave behind.

At a recent "Elder Law Boot Camp," seniors crowded in to pose questions to attorneys about various end of life legal issues.

Attorney Betty Raglin is an estate planning specialist.

"Do I need a will? Three lawyers will give you six different answers. Do you need one? No. The state of Louisiana already has one written for you," explained Raglin. "How scary is that?  Those people can't decide if it's noon or midnight but they've written your will. Holy Moses! That, to me, would be an encouragement to action. Maybe I should write my own will instead of counting on Baton Rouge to do a good job."

Having a will allows you to decide what happens to your assets and who benefits.

"Generally, it says, if you have kids, your kids get whatever's yours. If you're married, your spouse may get some short term right to use and enjoy whatever it is. But at some point, your spouse is going to die and it goes to your kids. If you've got great kids, wonderful! If you've got a bunch of drug addled, no good, in jail, always in trouble kids, maybe that's not where you want your estate to go. You don't want it to be just given up in judgement to the next person that your child injures. You'd rather give it to your grand kids," said Raglin.

Raglin said you can do your own will by writing it out, but she certainly does not recommend it. 

"I can cut my own hair. I don't do that because it's a little dangerous. I might poke myself in the ear," said Raglin. 

So, her advice is to let professionals do what they do and see an attorney. When you're getting your will, you may also want to decide who will have power of attorney for you. 

"We know we will get hit by a bus and killed. We don't anticipate getting hit by a bus and being made comatose or unable to, perhaps we're not comatose, but we're paralyzed from the neck down. We cannot handle our own business anymore," said Raglin.
She explains the time to decide these questions is while you are mentally able.

"Particularly if your kids are adults, you know how they're turning out. Who's going to go in there and just razoo all the money out of your bank account and go take a trip to Tahiti and who is going to be such a penny pinching miser, and make sure, 'No. I'm not paying your caregiver $18 an hour, $17.50, that's the going rate. That's the kid you want. Powers of attorney, to me, are the single most important planning device a person can put in place for themselves," said Raglin.

If you're incapacitated and you have no power of attorney then a court decides who will be in charge of your affairs.

For more on this topic, check out LouisianaLawHelp.org.

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