Your estate plan must be in writing to be legally valid; conversations with your spouse or other family members are not enough. Without written directions and authorization, family discord and upset may result and your wishes may not be followed.
Don’t Want to be Hooked to Life Support Machines, Put it in Writing in an Advance Health Care Directive
For example, Terri Schiavo, the Florida woman kept on life support for 15 years, had reportedly told her husband that she didn’t want to be hooked up to machines; but, she didn’t put it in writing. After she collapsed in her home, she went into an irreversible coma. Her husband sought to have the life support machines removed in honor of Terri’s wishes; Terri’s parents disagreed and a public and painful battle ensued. In the end, when life support was finally removed, 15 years later, an autopsy showed that Terri had been brain dead since the very moment she dropped. In California, the document that could have been used to avoid this tragic conflict is an Advance Health Care Directive. In this document, one can hand pick the person who will make decisions in the event of incapacity as well as giving direction about health care decisions.
Want Your Children to Inherit Your Retirement Accounts, Put it in Writing in Your Beneficiary Designations
If you want your children or someone else to inherit your retirement accounts, life insurance, pension, or annuity, you must designate those persons as beneficiaries in the asset contract. Telling someone who you want to inherit what will not work. And, if you change your mind, update your beneficiary designation, in writing.
Want Your Granddaughter to Inherit Your Book Collection, Put it in Writing in Your Will or Trust
Unless you’re going to pass along your family heirlooms and personal treasures now, you need to put your wishes in writing in your will or trust. This is especially important if all of your children and grandchildren are not also all the children and grandchildren of your spouse. For example, you’re in a second marriage and you have children from a previous relationship.
If your estate plan is not in writing, consult with an experienced and qualified estate planning attorney.