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This Blog is a public service of the Law Office of Joseph H. Mattingly III, PLLC. Our hope is that the general topics addressed here will be useful to those looking for basic explanations of the law and legal system.

Q: I was just involved in a car wreck. Now what?

A: First and foremost, your most important concern should be your health. Whether you were the at-fault party or not, if you have automobile insurance and your accident occurred in Kentucky, your policy will provide a coverage called Personal Injury Protection (PIP) that will make available at least $10,000 for medical expenses associated with your accident. If you have any doubt, make an appointment with your family doctor or go to your local ER for treatment. After your health concerns are addressed, if you think you might have a claim for damages, it is important to speak with an attorney who can help you navigate the claim process. The first offer that you receive is often not a fair representation of the true value of your claim, and without the assistance of an attorney, you may not receive full compensation for your injuries. An experienced attorney can help you evaluate your claim and advise you of your legal rights.

Q: Why do I need a will?

A: I was once taught never to answer a question with another question, but here goes: Do you want the Kentucky General Assembly determining what happens to your assets after your death? Or, more importantly, do you want your family to have to jump through additional hoops to have your estate probated if you die without a will? If you are like most people I know, you have some idea of who you would want to inherit your belongings after your death. It might surprise you to learn that the people you would expect to inherit your belongings after your death might not be the same people who the politicians in Frankfort have decided will inherit them if you die without a will. More importantly, a well-drafted will can dispense with some of the formalities of the probate process and can help streamline the settlement of your estate for your family and/or loved ones. An attorney can help ensure that your wishes are honored and that your estate is easily settled by drafting a will that formalizes your wishes, while complying with the requirements of Kentucky law.

Q: When I go to the doctor’s office or the hospital, they always ask me if I have a Living Will or a Healthcare Power-of-Attorney. What is the difference, and do I need them both?

A: A Living Will (or Advanced Directive) generally deals only with end-of-life scenarios and specifies your wishes with regard to the use of extraordinary life-saving measures. Additionally, a Living Will nominates someone to act as your surrogate in the event that you are unable to act on your own behalf in this regard.

A Healthcare Power-of-Attorney covers a much broader subject matter and gives someone the ability to make medical decisions for you in the event that you become incapacitated, even temporarily. For example, if you are involved in an accident and you are knocked unconscious, your Healthcare Power-of-Attorney can give consent for whatever medical treatment you may need.

Both of these documents are important pieces to your Estate Plan, and you should consult an attorney to ensure that your wishes are properly preserved.