Every day, first responders face challenges and risks that most people don’t face at their jobs. They sacrifice a lot to keep the public safe, and sometimes put their lives on the line when responding to critical and dire emergencies. In a study from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 838 emergency responders, including public-sector law enforcement, firefighters, and ambulance crews, passed away from injuries or illnesses suffered on the job in a four year span.

As a first responder, it’s crucial that you prepare for what could happen as a result of this high risk job. It’s important to protect you and your loved ones from financial hardship should you pass away. Read on to learn what it’s important to have an estate plan as a first responder, and contact Thomas Walters PLLC for a free consultation regarding your estate plan.

What Is An Estate Plan?

Estate planning is “the process by which an individual or family arranges the transfer of assets in anticipation of death. An estate plan aims to preserve the maximum amount of wealth possible for the intended beneficiaries and flexibility for the individual prior to death.”

The “estate” in question refers to “ the total property, real and personal, owned by an individual prior to distribution through a trust or will. Real property is real estate and personal property includes everything else, for example cars, household items, and bank accounts.”

Wills and trusts are common methods that people use to plan for past their lifetime. A Chapel Hill estate planning attorney can help you navigate the benefits of each one to find which plan works best for you and your loved ones.

What Are The Elements Of An Estate Plan

Learn the elements of an estate plan so you can better understand how to protect your loved ones if you were to pass away.

Health care directive: This is sometimes referred to as a health care proxy or an advanced medical directive. If you have been injured in such a way that you are not able to speak for yourself and cannot communicate your wishes, a health care directive will step in to speak on your behalf. Without a pre-established health care directive, you run the risk of not having anyone to uphold your wishes and address your concerns should you become incapacitated or unable to communicate and care for yourself.

Financial power of attorney. A financial power of attorney gives authority to someone to handle your financial situation if you become unable to do so on your own behalf. For example, if you become injured and fall into a coma, a health care proxy can direct your medical care, but will not automatically absolve the financial power of attorney. You will need to establish both, but note that one person can hold both powers.

A will. A will is “ a document that gives instructions for managing a testator’s estate. To be valid, a will must be in writing, signed and attested.” Your attorney will help you create a will that upholds your wishes and has your loved one’s best interest in mind.

A trust. A trust is “A form of division of property rights in which for certain property the ownership (which goes to the trustee) is separated from the beneficial enjoyment (which goes to the beneficiary).” Your attorney will help you determine if a trust works in your best interest, or if there are other elements of an estate plan that are better suited for you and your family.

Why Do First Responders Need An Estate Plan?

First responders need an estate plan because they work such dangerous jobs. No first responder expects to pass away in an accident or dangerous situation, but it unfortunately can happen at any time. In the event that the worst case scenario occurs, you will be thankful that you set up a plan that protects your loved ones if you were to pass away.

In most cases, if a first responder is married, their spouse will automatically be appointed as their health care proxy or financial power of attorney. But first responders who are not married run the risk of having no one to speak on their behalf, protect their wishes and address their concerns should they become too ill or incapacitated to communicate. Those who are unmarried, and especially those who are unmarried with children, should create an estate plan as soon as possible.

Schedule a free, no obligation consultation with a Chapel Hill estate planning lawyer today if you are concerned with taking care of your family and loved ones once you pass away. Not all estate planning lawyers offer a free consultation, but Thomas Walters PLLC does. We take the time to listen to your concerns and will provide you with clear next steps for moving forward with your estate plan.