A will and estate planning are important to every adult in Berks County and across Pennsylvania. No matter who you are and who your family is, estate planning and wills ensure your property is divided according to your wishes. Estate planning can also protect you if you are very ill and cannot make decisions for yourself.

If you don’t speak with an estate planning and wills attorney in Berks County, PA or your community, you may be allowing someone else to make decisions for you. In Pennsylvania, for example, when no will is present, an estate is divided by probate court. In this situation, a judge will decide how property and assets are divided — and the process can be time-consuming.

Wills and Estate Planning: The Basics

Estate planning considers what will happen to your estate, and to you, in the event that you cannot make decisions for yourself. Estate planning can involve a will as well as powers of attorney, living wills and other legal instruments to protect you and your family in a variety of situations.

Wills, specifically, are a legal document designed to divide assets and property after someone passes away. Wills can shorten the probate process, since a judge won’t have to decide how property is divided. Wills can also reduce arguments over inheritances by clearly stating the intentions of the property owner. A will ensures heirs get their property and that the estate is divided up as an individual wished.

Power of Attorney

Powers of Attorney are another part of the estate planning process, and they allow an individual to designate someone to act on their behalf in certain circumstances. For example, a General Durable Power of Attorney allows a person to designate someone to act on their behalf if they are incapacitated. The Power of Attorney lasts as long as the principal is alive, and if the principal is incapacitated, the person they have designated in the documents can make decisions and act in their best interests. They can make legal and financial decisions, for example, on behalf of the principal, as long as the principal cannot make decisions for themselves.

A Medical Power of Attorney refers specifically to medical decisions. This document allows a principal to name someone to make medical decisions (such as care or treatment decisions) in the event the principal is unable to do so. A person may have a Medical Power of Attorney alone or in conjunction with a General Durable Power of Attorney for other decision-making.

What are Living Wills?

Known officially as a Directive to Physicians, a living will states a person’s preferences for end-of-life care and care in extreme situations. In these circumstances, a patient may not be able to speak for themselves because they are too injured, and a family is often left with devastating choices — such as whether to keep a loved one on a ventilator or life support. A living will provides answers by stating an individual’s preferences clearly.

What Is a Declaration of Guardian for Self in the Event of Later Incapacity?

This document lists the guardians, in order of priority, who can act as guardians for an estate or person. This document is needed if an individual has multiple people who could act as guardians and clarification is needed about which person should be prioritized. If an individual has no one to name as a guardian, this document can help appoint someone.

What Is a Declaration of Guardian for Minor Children?

Anyone who has children who are younger than 18 years old should have a Declaration of Guardian for Minor Children as part of their estate plan. This document lists someone who can act as guardian if both parents pass away or are incapacitated. If no such document is present, minor children may be placed in foster care or a court may determine a guardian. This can be accomplished via specific language in a will, as well.

Do I need a Wills Attorney in Reading, PA?

A thorough and personalized estate plan can be created with the assistance of an attorney. An estate planning and wills attorney in Reading, PA or your community can review the specifics of your estate and your family situation and may be able to suggest legal options you may not have considered. An attorney can address your concerns and can work to protect both you and your family.

If something goes wrong, you don’t want strangers making decisions about your family and your estate. Start estate planning today with Miller Law Group. You can contact us today for your personalized consultation so you and your family are protected in the future. No one knows what the future might bring, but at Miller Law Group, we strive to bring you peace of mind about tomorrow. Contact us now for your consultation.