Why you should get a Power of Attorney and/or a will

This is my first post on this blog, so allow me to introduce myself.

My name is Colin P. Leicht, and I am a lawyer licensed to practice in Illinois. I recently passed the bar in November 2012, and had my career placed on hold when my dad went to the hospital the next week. He suffered from liver disease for another month and a week, slowly deteriorating in health. During that time, I worked on a power of attorney specific to the needs of my family, so that we could close his business down for him.

We were very hopeful he would be able to come home and recover, but unfortunately, he passed away in mid-December. After the services and the holidays, I began to work on his estate as administrator and attorney, which was complicated, as he owned a business and had no will, and left a few creditors. The process was daunting at first, but because I had taken a class on wills and trusts in law school, and know my way around the probate code, I was able to figure it out quickly and take charge of what needed to be done.

Two months later, I have the process smoothly going along and am back to thinking about what to do with my career. I’d like to start my own law firm and practice everything and anything 1) that I am competent to learn and do, and 2) that will help people in need of legal services they cannot do by themselves.

One of the fields that I am considering practicing is estate planning, and this is because of the family situation I have experienced in the last few months. Losing a loved one is very difficult no matter when it occurs. However, this situation can become even more difficult, as I found out, if the right documents and preparations have not been made.

A power of attorney for property document can allow the family members to take care of a sick or dying relative’s personal or business affairs while they are in the hospital, but if there isn’t one in place, it means the family can do almost nothing in terms of handling bank accounts, automatic debits on credit cards, opening/closing accounts, transfers of property, and many other financial and property issues.

A power of attorney for health care can allow the close family members the right to carry out the wishes of the sick or dying relative in terms of treatment or end-of-life decisions. Although there is a procedure in place for the hospital to inquire from family members, this document can spell it out boldly and ensure that the right person gets to make those decisions during a crisis time.

A will can designate more than just who gets what in the inheritance. This document can designate who the executor will be, and how the estate will be managed to get the most value for the heirs with the least amount of taxes and court fees. It also becomes an important device to transfer an existing business into the right hands or to designate a proper guardian for your children.

These are merely examples of what can be done with estate planning, and I am happy to help clients who might wish to put these inexpensive documents in place now, because as I found out over the last few months, death always occurs sooner than we would hope. It is better to be prepared for that day when it comes, and if this is something I can help you with, please contact me today to set up an appointment.

DISCLAIMER: Please do not prepare your own forms after reading this blog, without consulting an attorney first to see if they are appropriate for your situation. I make no representations or guarantees as to the applicability of any forms mentioned here to your specific situation. This blog is ADVERTISING MATERIAL only, and should not be relied upon as legal advice, especially if you are not an Illinois resident. Please contact me if you have a legal question or concern, as no attorney-client agreement will exist between myself and any readers of this blog unless it is signed in writing.

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2 comments

  1. Colin, I am deeply sorry to read, again, about your Dad’s passing. I remember when this topic initially emerged on the general Facebook dialogue a few months back.

    It is truly amazing how often we, as accountants, encounter the situation that you describe. We have found that in almost all of the instances, it involved the reluctance of the specific parent (or both of the parents) to discuss their personal financial affairs with any of their offspring – this even includes offspring such as yourself who are highly trained and could be of enormous help, before the passing of the loved one.

    I’m truly sorry that you were confronted with this confusing situation immediately after your Father’s death. I will say that from an accountants perspective, it sure sounds like you performed spectacularly in your capacity as executor.

  2. Pingback: Powers of attorney as insurance | Colin P. Leicht - Attorney at Law


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