Your own death is an uncomfortable subject to think about. Likewise, it is hard to imagine becoming so ill or gravely injured that you are unable to make decisions about your health care.
Because death and disability are so hard to think about, many people don’t.
Until recently, I was one of those people.
Over a two-year period, my father became very ill. He was hospitalized frequently, and often incapable of understanding his health care options. Eventually he required around-the-clock, one-on-one care.
Fortunately for my siblings and me, years before he had executed a living will, a power of attorney for health care and general power of attorney, and a revocable trust. I knew what he wanted in general terms from his living will. By being granted his power of attorney for health care, I could direct his caregivers. Because of his general power of attorney, I could pay his bills.
Because he had his assets in a revocable trust, I automatically became the trustee when he died. and was able to sell his house and distribute his assets to the beneficiaries named in the trust.
From a legal perspective, nothing really happened—the only change was the trustee. His retirement account, vehicle, real estate, and essentially everything else was still owned by the trust. There was no need to go to probate court or involve the legal system in any way.
As the trustee, I could sell his house and vehicle and distribute the proceeds to his beneficiaries. I could settle up with his assisted living facility and hire movers. I could hire accountants to pay his taxes.
Avoiding probate saved expense and countless hours. Hours I could spend grieving.