Living Wills. Powers of attorney. Beneficiaries. Living trusts.
For most, these terms aren’t part of everyday conversation, but they should be discussed, says Tassma Powers, an attorney in the Legacy Planning Group at Schwartz, Bon, Walker and Studer in Casper.
“Busy women don’t get a chance to focus on themselves, their retirement plans and what they want if they are incapacitated,” she said.
Wyoming women will have the opportunity to learn about these terms and more in Powers seminar — “10 Critical Things Women Should Know about Retirement and Estate Planning” — at the Wyoming Women’s Expo.
Powers, whose emphasis is in estate planning, will touch on a variety of topics relating to retirement and estate planning, such as assigning power of attorney, designating beneficiaries and the difference between qualified and non-qualified retirement plans.
“I’ve seen women struggle for not being prepared,” she said. “We (women) are more likely to have to deal with these issues, and we need to make sure we’re taking care of ourselves and taking the opportunity to live the life we want.”
It’s never too early to start estate planning, Powers said. And it’s never too late until, well, it’s too late.
The two most important things you can do is assign power of attorney and complete a living will.
Both forms will be available, for free, at the Schwartz, Bon, Walker and Studer booth during the expo. You can learn about the forms, fill them out and get them notarized on the spot.
“They’re not very long, and they’re not very complicated,” Powers said.
Anyone ages 18 and up who has his or her capacity can fill out the forms. You just need to bring your driver’s license.
Here’s what they are all about:
HEALTH CARE POWER OF ATTORNEY
Power of attorney gives a person of your choosing the right to make health care decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated.
If one becomes incapacitated and has not assigned power of attorney to someone, aka an agent, Wyoming state law says that a family member, called a surrogate, be assigned power of attorney. This is oftentimes a spouse. If a spouse is not available, the responsibility goes to an adult child, a parent, a grandparent, a sibling or adult grandchild, in that order.
That’s where things can become stressful and even costly, as disagreeing family members can end up in court.
“You have to have power of attorney,” Powers said. “It can be devastating to your family if you don’t, and to yourself.”
Powers recommends making a list of three people you would like to be your agents, and listing them in order of priority. It’s not a popularity contest, she said. Choose people you trust to make decisions on your behalf.
A living will allows you to indicate whether you want life-saving treatment when you are near death.
It applies when:
• You are in a persistent vegetative state, which means there is no consciousness and no evidence that you are aware of your surrounding.
• Your only movement is from reflex activity of muscles and nerves for low-level conditioned responses.
• There can be no recovery to a reasonable degree of medical certainty.
• Death is imminent, or ready to take place.
• The application of life-prolonging procedures would only prolong the dying process.
Once you complete your living will, be sure to discuss it with your agents. Also, give copies to your:
• first agent
• local hospital, if you have a record there
You may even want to keep a copy in the glove box of your car when traveling.