Michael E. Byczek, Attorney at Law

Other Estate Plan Documents

Pet Guardianship

This document states who should take custody/ownership of your pets upon your death. You can set aside money for their care, and as a worst case scenario, select a preferred shelter to take your pets if nobody agrees to take them into their home.

Power of Attorney - Financial

This document names an individual who has authority to make financial decisions on your behalf. It is very important to name an individual who you trust, because the document becomes effective immediately regardless of your ability or inability to make decisions yourself.

It is often part of an estate plan to prepare for a time when you are unable to make these decisions yourself. Nobody can legally sign their name or forge your signature to financial documents (i.e. bills, taxes, investments, etc).

A financial power of attorney enables one person to carry on your routine financial matters.

Without such a document, your family must ask a court to appoint somebody to make these decisions.

Examples:

Illinois law (755 ILCS 45/Art. III) requires the document be notarized with one witness and refers to this document as a Durable Power of Attorney for Property. Two witnesses are advised if there are questions about whether another state where a transaction might occur requires two instead of one.

Power of Attorney - Health Care

This document authorizes an individual to make health care decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so yourself.

Typically, the critera to become effective is that you are so ill or injured that you cannot make or express medical decisions. For example, being unable to understand the nature or consequences of the options available to you or unable to communicate your decisions. A doctor might have to make the decision whether or not the health care power of attorney becomes effective.

The individual named in this document has authority to supervise the treatment instructions set forth or make decisions that the document does not specifically describe.

Examples:

Illinois law (755 ILCS 45/Art. IV) requires one witness to the document, who cannot be a family member.

Living Will

This document is a written declaration instructing his or her physician to withhold or withdraw death delaying procedures in the event of a terminal condition.

Illinois law (755 ILCS 35/1) requires two witnesses.

Note:

There is some overlap between a Living Will and Heath Care Power of Attorney. A living will only applies for a terminal condition that is incurable and irreversible with immminent death. You can have both documents, but a Power of Attorney will probably cover this scenario along with broad medical authority granted to the named individual to make these decisions, including a terminal condition. A Living Will would take priority if the person in your Power of Attorney is unavailble.