Scott Adams, the creator of the Dilbert comic has a controversial blog. One of his recent posts talked about the pain that he saw his father going through. It is a conversation that we have with our clients quite often. A document appointing a health care proxy is not enough, nor is a living will. It is important to have both documents – it is also possible to have one document, an usually called an Advance Medical Directive, which incorporates both.
When choosing someone to make decisions on your behalf, a person called a health care proxy, like the form, it is important that your chosen proxy can follow your wishes. Will the proxy be able to tell the doctor not to put you on life support, or not to attempt to bring you back, if there is a problem? Not all family members can make those decisions. It is a difficult thing to do. It’s important that before you choose your health care proxy, you have a discussion with him or her.
It’s also important that you know exactly what you want and how you want your care to be handled. A good health care proxy will leave instructions with details about what you do, or do not, want. You should communicate your wishes to your attorney.
New York State’s Department of Health has a page of information about health care proxies, as well as a form that you can download and complete. If you do not have a health care proxy, you should take the time to complete one soon.
A long-time client of mine(we’ll call her Janet) recently told me that she was pregnant with her first child. She was very excited, and I was excited for her as well. We were talking about everything that she’d now need to prepare in order to protect her new baby. Janet already had a will, Power of Attorney and health care proxy, but that wasn’t going to be enough. Halfway through, she realized it was a more detailed list than she had thought about.
- Standby (or Pre-Need) Guardian Appointment – Janet’s Power of Attorney appointed someone to take care of her financial needs, and her health care proxy appointed someone to take care of her medical needs. There was nothing, however, that said who would take care of her new child. Should something happen to her and her husband, what happened next? This is a document that will appoint someone to step in as guardian of a child if the parents are unable to take care of the child for any reason. Unlike a Power of Attorney or health care proxy, this document can survive the death of the signer.
- 529 Plan – 529 plans are plans that allow you to save money for your child’s education. These plans, which can include tax savings, are extremely beneficial when started early. The plans vary by state, and generally only a plan in your state will work as a tax planning vehicle, but you are not limited to using your own state’s plan. These plans can be set up online, or through an investment manager.
- Life Insurance – This was something that Janet and her husband had considered off and on for a little while – because they both worked, they were evaluating how reliant they were on each other’s salaries. The most recent decision had been that either one of their salaries was enough to cover the bills and that the first death might just mean eating out a little less, and a little less in savings. With the new baby, however, that paradigm changed. Now, the first death might mean that a nanny was needed, or that the surviving spouse had to work fewer hours or take a pay cut. This became much more of a necessity.
- Last Will and Testament – Janet’s will left everything to her husband. If he died before her, then it all went to several charities that she supported. That was no longer how she wanted to distribute her assets. It also failed to appoint a permanent guardian for her child. Janet needed a new will that contained a trust for any children she had, and ensured that her wishes for who should take care of the children in the event of her death was known.
With only two and a half months left in the year, it is a good time for Corporate officers to start looking around and make sure that they have covered all of their yearly formalities. For Corporations, that means having both a Shareholders’ and a Board of Directors Meeting. For LLCs, that means holding a Members’ Meeting.
It’s not enough to hold the meeting; minutes of the meeting should be kept, and then put with the company’s other documents. If your governing documents state how much notice each attendee must be given, you should send out that notice, or get a waiver from each attendee.
At these meetings, you should ratify every major act that the business has taken – this does not mean the day-to-day actions, but any big contracts, such as leases or loans, that have been signed should be voted on and ratified here (unless they were approved previously).
For small companies, these meetings are important; they establish the company as its own entity and not merely as an extension of the owners. So while they may seem silly, these formalities will help if there is ever a lawsuit – these help to limit or eliminate the liability of the owners of the company.
We have forms available for Meeting Minutes, Notice of Meeting and Waiver of Notice. Please feel free to contact us if you need them, or if you have any questions.