Safe Family Seniors, Part 1

Do you have a will? If not, you could be leaving a life's worth of possessions to the state. In this KHQA Safe Family Special Report, we found the best ways to prepare you and your family.

"I don't have one, but my kids wish I did, but I don't have one yet," said Hannibal Resident Carl Barbee.

Barbee's one of millions of people without a will. Recent studies show less than half of the country's adults have wills.

"The reason to get a will is simple. If you don't have a will, then what property you have is going to be distributed according to the way the state law presumes it should be distributed. And that very often is not what the deceased wants," said Kevin Suffern. He's the managing attorney at Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, Inc. in Hannibal.

Hirmaline Whitney's a senior citizen in Hannibal. She said as far as wills, she has everything squared away.

"I just thought it was the thing to do. It comes to the point where you can't do for yourself and you need help. So it should be taken care of ahead of time," said Whitney.

Having both a will and and a living will are very beneficial. While a will distinguishes how you want your possessions divided, a living will advises doctors on how far they should go when it comes to saving your life.

"A living will is basically telling the hospital you don't want to be artificially kept alive. You are in a terminal state, with terminal cancer. And yes, they could keep you alive by feeding tubes and artificial hydration and other mechanical means to keep you alive, but it's your expression of, 'No, I don't want that," said Suffern.

"If you become incapacitated, you may want people to speak for you as to how you want to be treated," said Suffern.

"I was a power of attorney for my boy as long as he was alive. He wanted me to be there in case something had to be done," said Barbee.

Suffern says it's best to choose a power of attorney over a guardian. While you can revoke a power of attorney at any time, Suffern says it takes a court order to get you into a guardianship and it takes a court order to get you out of one. Whichever you choose, make sure the person you appoint is very trustworthy, because you'll be handing over all your rights to that person.