Lisa Hancock wrote:
> It doesn't work that well. Your personal effects automatically
> revert to your family or estate unless you explicitly give
> instructions otherwise. This is the way it always worked.
I want to add some additional information.
First, one should have a will prepared by a lawyer that includes
directives for things like personal effects, documents, any
"intellectual property" including stuff on computers. In this way
there is less chance for misunderstanding.
Second, one should have a power-of-attorney document prepared by a
lawyer designating someone you absolutely trust access to your affairs
in the event you become disabled. A lot of people have wills but not
a power-of-attorney, and with today's privacy laws, it can be
difficult for others, esp friends and distant relatives, to provide
care in a medical emergency. In some cases a spouse automatically has
this power, but it is less clear for other relatives. There is also a
Living Will document.
Third, in order to gain access to bank accounts and other privacy
guarded affairs, one needs official documentation. A lawyer can
explain a certified power of attorney (one that is officially filed)
document as well as the estate certificate that specifies someone as
the executor of an estate. Be cautioned that even with these
documents you will have to be patient with institutions. (I had to
wait 90 minutes in a bank before they accepted a power-of-attorney
document I had for someone in my care).
Lawyers do charge to prepare these documents and there are filing
fees, but IMHO it is worth it to smooth things in the future.