Your Legal Checkup and Review; “An Ounce of Prevention”

(Avoiding Legal Problems, “Preventive Law”)
We are used to the idea of an annual medical examination or “check up”, but not so much for our “legal health”. As a young US Air Force JAG, I learned of a concept called preventive law. Remember the truth in the phrases “an ounce of prevention” and “a pound of cure”. I am happy to offer you that ounce of prevention. 
There are firms that focus on complex estate planning for “seven figure” estates. We will be happy to work with you in finding such a firm, but a “legal checkup” is much broader than that. Even smaller estates need a review, updates of your wills, and so much more. And there are other aspects of your legal lives. Here a some of many things we will review or update for a small fixed fee, $500.

 1. Durable General Power of Attorney: Most people should have someone they trust explicitly who can sign for a package, open an account, or pay a bill if they cannot. This can be helpful if you are out of the country, but it could be critical if you are in an accident or become medically incompetent. If properly recorded, a “Durable General Power of Attorney” can be used to sign a deed or promissory note AFTER you become incapacitated. That’s what makes it “durable”.

2. Special Power of Attorney: Special POA’s are designed for a particular purpose. In the military, we often prepared special POA’s so that a spouse could sign all documents relative to the transportation of household goods. A special power of attorney can be defined as narrowly as you choose, to take your child to the doctor or to sign for a package. At our office, if we expect a check in the mail while on vacation, we sometimes sign a special power of attorney so our staff can deposit it. Special Powers of Attorney are simple, and of course cheap, but they still must be done right.

3. Medical Power of Attorney: As long as you are clear of mind, your “Medical Power of Attorney” is of no force. But, like “durable general powers of attorney”, they become critical when you can no longer make decisions yourself. You and the person you pick for your “medical power of attorney” need to have a heart to heart talk. That person needs to know you, where you are in your life, your values, and your tolerances. I have held that solemn position of trust for both of my parents. It is an important decision. Don’t leave it up to WV’s “medical surrogacy law”. That’s akin to refusing to have a will and letting the State divide your estate for you (intestacy law).

4. Living Will: I do not like living wills. I think they come from the same source as the “opioid crisis”, the profit motive of the medical industry. If you have a “Medical Power of Attorney”, why have an “advance directive” controlling those final medical decisions? A cynic might say it is a ploy by the insurance companies to free up medical beds. Why else are they promoted with the fear of “having tubes stuck all over your body”? I say, cover that in your discussion with your Medical surrogate, but we can discuss it. Don’t hesitate to do your own reading or get a second opinion.

5. Your last will and testament: If you die without a will, you are “intestate”. Your “will” will be the one the State wrote for you. You will have died “intestate” and your heirs may be just who you expected, spouse or children, but perhaps not. And, you leave them confused as to the person you wanted to handle the estate. That’s the “administrator” or “executor”. Many people with simple estates still want to specify “bequests” of personal property, heirlooms, etc., or “real estate” such as Grandma’s farm. Don’t leave such traps for you family to navigate. They’ll be glad you made your wishes clear.

6. If your family is not getting along, and you or someone you love is being pulled to and fro, that’s when a lawyer you trust should be consulted. The lawyer will take care to protect his client from undo influence and carry how his uncoerced wishes.

7. And, if you have a blended family or a minor child whose parent is unfit to care for them, or an impaired adult relative, or any of a dozen other challenges? If so, for God Sake, give us a call to discuss it. I have seen four cases in which a person’s wishes from the grave impacted who took care of their loved one.

8. Have you reviewed your insurance coverages in detail. Perhaps your insurance agent can do it, but not from the perspective of real world claims, prospects for settlement, and avoiding financial ruin. Why not chat with both of us? I have solid ideas of how much coverage is enough. It is essential for you to carry adequate personal injury and property damage liability coverage.

 9. And, uninsured and underinsured motorist coverages when the other driver carries little or no insurance? Just think, the person coming around that curve could put you or your loved one(s) in a hospital for months and pay little or nothing to assist in your recovery. No lost wages, medical expenses, payment for walkers, ramps, care providers, rehabilitation, pain and suffering (which could be immense), and permanent injury. Permanent means a life sentence.

10.  Even if you have medical insurance, consider a form of coverage called “medical payments” or “med pay”. It can pay $5000-$25,000 regardless of who was at fault and is not a charge against your medical insurance lifetime limit. It can cover deductibles and limitations from your primary coverage, and you can avoid  the delay of waiting for the liability carrier to settle with you. Remember, they will not pay until you have recovered and are ready to sign a release.

11. Finally, if you own your home, perhaps a business, have retirement funds, or investments, you will need an umbrella! That is exactly what it sounds like, coverage over and beyond your other coverages, homeowners, auto, under and uninsurable, and liability. Usually it adds at least $1,000,000.00 in coverage,  and it is cheap. See my article: .

12. Are you beginning to sense that marriage is going downhill? Anyone who sees a divorce or separation as a looming possibility owes themselves and their family to do their homework. Fault, parenting rights, custody, visitation, decision making, property division, debt allocation, alimony, and division of retirement benefits. These are all issues where you can get answers.

13. There are so many other aspects of your legal life. The neighbor who keeps damaging your driveway. The neighbor who seems to think he owns your side of the fence. The relatively minor auto accident that you have been meaning to get settled. The friend who has not paid you back, or that nagging workers compensation claim. Just make your list of concerns and give us a call. We will cover them and more.





This post was written by Burton Hunter

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