PORTLAND LEGAL CENTER PA - Legal Services at Reasonable Cost Since 1987.
It is important for you to have a will. If you do not have a will the State of Maine has made a will for you. It is called the law of intestate suscession. For instance if you are married and have children and you do not have a will your spouse will not get all of your estate. Your spouse will get the first $50,000 of the estate and 1/2 of the remainder and your children will equally divide the remainder of your estate. If you are not married or widowed and have children, your estate will be divided equally among your children.
These distributions of your estate may not be according to your wishes. That is one reason that you need a will. A will will allow you to distribute your estate as you see fit.
If you have children it is very important to have a will in case both you and your spouse both die at the same time. Your children will need a guardian to look after them. You can name that guardian in your will rather than have the Probate Court appoint someone who may not be your choice for your children's guardians. You may also create a trust in your will. A trust wil be necessary to take care of the money for your children. You can control who the trustee is, how they invest the money and how they distribute the money.
The probate process is needed in Maine to pass property on heirs in a proper fashion. A personal reprsentative (formerly called an executor or administrator) will be appointed and will be given the power to administer the estate. You will have named this person in your will. If property is soley in the name of the decedant (such as real estate or motor vehicles) the personal representative will be able to transfer good title of these assets to the heirs. The personal representative will also be able to get assets from banks and stock brokers. It is important to probate an estate as it will also deal with debt issues. If a creditor does not file a claim, the claim will be barred and the estates property will no longer be subject to that claim.
POWERS OF ATTORNEY
It is often important to have a "power of attorney" which designates some other person to be you "attorney in fact". This person is granted the power to deal with your financial affairs as if they were you. Powers of Attorney can be limited, that is they are only good for certain actions, such as a real estate closing when you are going to be out of town. Or they can be general giving the person power to act in all your financial affairs. Powers of Attorney are now generally "durable". This means they are still valid if you become mentally incompetent. This is often valuable for older persons who may become disabled as it prevents the complication of having to go to Probate Court to have a Guardian and Conservator appointed. Powers of Attorney are generally revokable at any time. The Power of Attorney ceases to be of effect when you die. Given the chance of a person becoming incompetent it is good idea to have a Power of Attorney so you can make the decision as to who is in charge when you no longer have the capacity.
ADVANCED HEALTH CARE DIRECTIVE
You can designate someone to act for you to make health care decisions for you. You can designate how you wish to be cared for in the event you become incompetent and can no longer make these decisions on your own. It is important to designate someone who knows and shares your views to avoid family fights over extraordinary care you may not want.
GUARDIANSHIP AND CONSERVATORSHIP
In the event hat you become mentally incompetent, a relative or friend can apply to the Probate Court to be appointed Guardian and or Conservator. A Guardinan is in charge of your person, a conservator in charge of your finances. Generally the same person is both. The Probate Court has strict standards as to the appointment.