The law permits an individual to designate who are to become the owners of one's property after death. This is done by a Will. The Will names an Executor to carry out your instructions and names a Guardian to take care of your minor children, if there are any. Since a Will is a legal document and disposes of property, it must be executed in a specific manner and precautions must be taken to assure its genuineness. Some people do not think it is necessary to have a Will for one reason or another, or neglect to make one. In this event a statute designates who will get the property.
Do you know what will happen to your home when you die? It will depend on how you own it. If you own it by yourself in your own name, it will pass to your heirs under the terms of your will. If you do not have a will, it will pass to your heirs pursuant to NH statutes. If you are survived by a spouse, he or she may have some claim to the home even if you do not leave it to your spouse in your will. This is a "homestead right". If you own the home with another as joint tenants with rights of survivorship, the property will go to that other person upon your death without any legal proceedings. If you own your home with another as tenants-in-common, then upon your death, your half interest will pass per your will as noted above. And lastly if you own it in trust, it will pass according to the terms of your trust. You should review your deed, will etc to be sure you know what will happen to your home when you die.
We all know how important it is to have a Power of Attorney so that management of your finances can be turned over to a member of your family or friend in the event you become incapacitated. If, however, you have not reviewed this document recently, it might not be as effective as you think. Increasingly, banks, who are concerned about their liability in dealing with such documents, have been refusing to honor them. The question for individuals who have executed a Power of Attorney is how to make the document work when it is most needed, and how to prevent someone from abusing the power. Generally, the Power of Attorney is needed when the person granting the power is unable to take care of their own financial matters. This can be for any number of reasons and may not be a permanent disability. In New Hampshire, once you sign a Power of Attorney it takes effect immediately. In some other states the powers may only "spring" into effect after you become incapacitated, however, a "springing power" is not available in New Hampshire. Therefore, when you grant the Power of Attorney, you must be very careful in naming an agent you trust since the power can be used at any time. In addition to choosing your agent wisely, with the assistance of your estate planning attorney, you may tailor the Power of Attorney to grant powers that are very broad or very narrow. To avoid problems with banks, portfolio managers and other institutions that manage your assets, the best advice is to review and update your documents at least annually, and more frequently if there is a family member developing dementia. Call the institutions who manage your assets and see if they have their own forms that they would like you to use along with your Power of Attorney. The best way to safeguard the Power of Attorney from abuse is to allow your attorney to keep the original with instructions as to its release. Keep a copy in your file at home. This way the person seeking to use the power must contact your attorney prior to releasing the document. The added protection could save you from losses that come with an abuse of such power.
Did you know that by one estimate, less than 20% of people have a will? Are you in this category? No one wants to think about end of life issues but the fact is we will all face it. Unfortunately, it may happen when we least expect it and are least prepared for it. Do you know where your assets will go? Who will care for your children? If you die without a will, the distribution will be determined by New Hampshire law, not by you. Here at Martin Lord and Osman, our estate planning team can help you with a simple will or a complicated tax planning trust. For more information click on this link www.mlolaw.com/wills. Our team is here to help you with the business of your life. Call us at 524-4121.