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Most people are familiar with a “Last Will and Testament”. This is a legal document that expresses what people wish to happen after their deaths. Specifically, it may involve distribution of estate to the legal heirs, including the manner by which the deceased would want to be buried. Think cremation for example.

Constructing a Last Will and Testament should be consulted among family members or a trusted person. If possible, appoint a trusted person to be the administrator to make sure the “best laid plans” are executed at the proper time. Of course, it goes without saying that the administrator deserves a reasonable fee for carrying out the wishes of the deceased (which should also be carried out in the will). Consult a legal expert too if the estate involved is quite compicated.

In the Filipino culture, last time I checked, this is not a popular subject. That’s why, there are still many cases filling our courts because of family squabbles over a deceased’s estate. Common cause why people are fighting is that the person who ¬†owns the estate died without a will leaving the concerned heirs in a mess on how to divide the estate among themselves. Filipinos do not want to talk about the legacy of the dying while the person concerned is still alive. They will just deal with it when that person has expired. Sad but true.

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But thanks to life insurance companies like AXA Philippines which has been actively organizing Estate Planning talks for years to its prospective and existing clients. I believe that with initiatives like this, more Filipinos are becoming aware about the subject. Consequently, it prepares them to plan ahead.

While Estate Planning deals with the Last Will and Testament, there is another legal document that is equally important. This is called the “Living Will”. This document specifically details what a person wishes to happen before his or her death – for example, what the person wishes to happen in case of a physical or mental disability or a major medical emergency. It spares the family member or trusted person the dilemma on what to do in times like these.

Because of medical advances that can prolong a person’s life well beyond its normal expectancy, even in dire circumstances, the necessity of Living Wills have become more important than before.

Living wills may be classified according to two categories – health or financial. One should appoint a “Health Care Power of Attorney” if you want to designate a family member or a trusted person to make medical decisions concerning your care if you are no longer able to make them yourself. In the same breath, a “Financial Power of Attorney” should be entrusted to someone to make financial decisions in your behalf in case of your incapacity.

Being prepared in this life stages will spare your loved ones the mental, emotional and financial stress, considerably. It’s about time we rethink our cultural practices and traditions and be at sync with the times so that the heirs can accept and say, “Thy will be done.”

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