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Should I Make a Will, or Should I Make a Power of Attorney?

If you live in the Greensboro, North Carolina area and have considered making either a power of attorney or a last will and testament, you might wonder if one of these documents is all you need. If so, which one should you make? Is it better to have a last will and testament, or should your estate plan rely on a carefully drafted power of attorney?

Though this type of question is somewhat common, it presents a false choice. Here’s why.

The Power of Attorney

Through a power of attorney you can select another person(s), or organization(s) to represent your wishes and make decisions for you. Through power of attorney, for example, you can give your eldest child the ability to talk to your doctors and make medical decisions for you should you one day suffer a medical condition that makes you unable to make decisions on your own. Powers of attorney can also give others the ability to manage your property and finances, or enter into financial agreements on your behalf.

You can create a power of attorney as long as you are mentally competent. The person you appoint, called an agent, can continue to represent you as long as you remain competent. Further, if you create a durable power of attorney, your agent can continue to represent you, or begin doing so, should you become incapacitated.

However, all powers of attorney automatically terminate upon your death. The agent you appoint as your agent does not have the ability to represent you after you are dead regardless of the type of power you create.

The Will

Through a last will and testament you can make inheritance choices and appoint someone who will represent your interests after you are gone. The person you appoint, called your executor, can be the same person you chose as your agent under the power of attorney. However, you can only appoint your executor by nominating him or her in your last will and testament.

Forget About One-Size-Fits-All

The idea that all you need to do to create an effective estate plan is to create a single document or piece is erroneous. No matter what do-it-yourself websites tell you, no single document is enough to address all the legal issues you need your estate plan to address. Though creating a simple will or power of attorney might seem like a good, and cost-effective option when it comes to estate planning, it isn’t.

In order to create a good plan, you will need to create multiple pieces that work together. You also need to speak to an experienced attorney who knows how to make each of these pieces fit your individual needs.

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