If you are over 18, married and especially have children you have to have both of these documents. It may sound like something an 18-year-old does not need, but anything can happen at any second, especially during COVID-19. Being prepared for your family is your responsibility.
To start at the basics a Will (aka Last Will and Testament) is instructions on what to do with your assets after you pass (home, land, money, furniture, clothes, sentimental items, your business, children, animals and anything else you can think of). A POA (Power of Attorney) allows you to assign someone the legal authority to handle your affairs if you are unable to for various reasons. Precautionary, just because, incapacitation, etc. You can have a Power Attorney for you as an individual and for your business.
Your POA representative can do anything you allow them to do for you. Banking, medical decisions, handle other financial decisions, purchase assets, buy land - I can go on and on. For the most part, a “blanket” POA (anything and everything) is not recommended, but of course, some situations do.
Once you complete a POA you can have it “begin” when something happens so that the representative doesn’t have those powers immediately if it’s not needed.
Now, for the most part, all the average person does not necessarily need a POA on-hand unless you have a medical condition, older in age, things like that. But again, it’s being proactive and not reactive, and a medical POA is always a good idea so that someone of sound mind can make decisions on your behalf in an emergency. Aside from being proactive, let us say you are in the middle of a separation from a spouse but it has yet to be complete legally, without a POA assigned to someone else, your spouse still has the legal authority to make your medical conditions in an emergency and you may not want them to have that power.
Wills and POAs do not have to be drafted by a lawyer, but of course, it is highly recommended to ensure you’ve touched every point and that it is compliant with your state laws. But, there are DIY services available and can even be written down on a napkin as long as you’ve followed your state laws - some states require a witness to sign and for it to be notarized, but not all.
In addition, you need to keep your bank accounts updated with a POD/beneficiary. With your bank accounts, the bank will not use your Will to distribute funds in the event you pass. Your Will does not supersede the records your bank has in this situation. So, if you updated your Will to remove your ex from getting any assets, but you did not remove them from your bank account as a POD, they legally will get those funds and your family will have to take them to probate to dispute that and attempt to have the judge overturn it.
So, please take this time during COVID to update yours or have one created. And, I recommend reviewing these documents annually, at minimum, to ensure they still are written the way you want them to be.
Your Compliance Bestie
As always, this is not legal advice, please seek your own legal counsel.