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A will is a legal document you can use to put in writing what you want to happen with your property and belongings after you die. You do not have to have a will, but it is a good idea, especially if you have a house and land.
If you do not have a will, your property will pass to your closest relatives and be divided as set by Alabama law. Your property does not go to the state if you don’t have a will unless no family members are left.
When someone dies, many families have big fights over their property. You can help your family keep the peace by making your wishes known in a will!
YOU HAVE THE POWER! Take charge and prepare your will and other forms that will make your wishes clear to others in the future.
Any adult in Alabama of sound mind can make a will. They must know who they want to give their things to under a will, what they have, and how things will be given out. You do not have to own a home or a certain amount of property to be able to make a will.
Note: If someone makes a will after they get dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, a family member may challenge the will later. Fights over wills can take a lot of time and money to settle. (Dementia is a general term for loss of memory, language, problem-solving, and other thinking abilities that are bad enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia. Some people call it “old timer’s disease”)
You do not have to have a lawyer write the will, but if there is any way to get a lawyer to help you do it, that is always much better.
In Alabama, a will must be signed by the person making the will and by two witnesses. (It is best to have the signatures signed before a notary.)
You need to name an executor in your will. An executor is the person who will gather all the property, pay all bills, and give out what is left to those listed in the will (dividing it up as the will directs). It would be best to name a backup executor if the first choice is not able or willing to serve.
If you change your mind later, you can revoke or tear up your will and make a new one. (It is best to say in the new will that it replaces any old wills.)
Often, older adults can get a will prepared for free or for a very low fee.
TIP: Laws about wills are different for each state, so be careful where you get information about wills—make sure it applies to Alabama.
If you would like to make a will, please call 1-800-AGE-LINE (1-800-243-5463) to get connected with your local Area Agency on Aging (AAA) office.
An Advance Directive for Health Care (ADHC) is a legal form that lets you say what medical treatment or care you want or do not want if you become so sick that you can’t speak for yourself.
The ADHC form has a place where you can name a family member or other person you trust to make health care decisions for you if you became so sick you could not speak for yourself. The person you name is called a proxy. It is best to name a backup proxy if the person you name cannot serve for some reason.
An ADHC form lets you choose exactly what kind of care you want and do not want if you are terminally ill or injured, or in a coma. This part is often called a Living Will. (A terminal illness is a disease or condition which can’t be cured and is likely to lead to someone’s death)
Your doctor will consult with all the doctors caring for you to decide how sick you are and whether you can speak for yourself. Those decisions are not made lightly.
When you sign it, you need two witnesses. The witnesses cannot be any of your proxy choices, and they cannot be related to you.
Give a copy of the ADHC form to all doctors you see regularly.
You can cancel an ADHC at any time by tearing it up and making a new one.
A power of attorney is a form that can be a useful tool to help protect your money, property, things you own, and even your health care.
Financial Power of Attorney
This form gives legal power to another person you name to manage your finances and property for you. The person you name is called your agent. Your agent must act in your best interest.
Limited Power of Attorney
This form gives legal power to the person you name (your agent) to do only the tasks that you list. This lets you decide how much power you want to give to the agent. (Example: you can give the agent the power to deposit your checks)
Healthcare Power of Attorney
This form allows you to name a person to make decisions about your health if you can’t make those decisions.
The person you name (your agent) should be someone you really trust. This person does not have to be a spouse, one of your children, or a family member. If you can, name a backup person if the first person cannot or will not serve.
You can cancel a power of attorney if you change your mind or want to make a new one.
You can also set it up so that another person is involved or can oversee your agent’s decisions.
Look closely at the part of the form that says when a power of attorney takes effect. You can choose for it to start right when you sign it or only later if you become incapacitated (not able to make your own decisions).
If someone is pushing you to do a power of attorney, be careful. Are they trying to help you, or are they just out for your money?
YOU HAVE THE POWER! Power of attorney forms can often be used instead of guardianship or conservatorship. Guardianships and conservatorship take the most power and control away from someone, so they should always be the last choice.