What’s one positive that can come from an unexpected challenge, whether a natural disaster or a health event? We take a step back from the daily grind and look at how well we are prepared if and when another challenge comes.
Many lessons can come from 2020, but the focus of this month’s blog is estate planning. Or as we like to say: proper planning that shows your family you love them. Here are some considerations for a proper estate planning review.
One easy way to begin is by performing a check on your beneficiary designations. There are few things more heart-breaking than seeing a family member trying to come to grips with the fact that an ex-relationship or deceased parent was the beneficiary on the investment accounts or life insurance, and they’ll have to fight for what they feel is rightfully theirs. It adds more stress and worry to an already difficult grieving process.
Next, simply check the accuracy of your basic estate planning documents. These are easy and fairly inexpensive for estate attorneys to update and should be updated at least every five years. Be sure to check your Living Will and Power of Attorney for Health Care as well. This ensures your wishes for treatment and care during your incapacity are in writing, and there is a designated person who can help make sure these wishes are followed.
Take Steven as a hypothetical example. Steven is 50, single, never married, and has no children or living parents. He has just been diagnosed with a heart condition. While talking with his best friends, Joe and Jane, he tells them his wishes for treatment, and he asks them to advocate on his behalf should he be incapacitated. Unfortunately, Joe and Jane will have no authority to carry out Steven’s wishes simply based on this conversation. Steven will need to have a Health Care Power of Attorney (POA) drawn up giving Joe and Jane power to make health decisions for Steven should he be unable to do so himself.
A Health Care POA is also important to have drafted for a child who turns 18. Joe and Jane have a 17-year-old daughter named Juniper. When Juniper goes off to college in the Fall, she will be 18, her parents will have as much right to make healthcare decisions or even see health records as a stranger would, due to HIPPA regulations since Juniper is now an adult.
In addition to Steven, Joe, and Jane having Health Care POAs (along with other important estate documents) drafted and signed, it is important that they provide a copy of their Health Care POA to the named agents, primary care physicians, and hospitals/health clinics where treatment will be performed. It may also be prudent to keep an electronic copy handy for emailing quickly.
A final important planning tool to help ease the burden of an emergency: a consolidated document for your loved ones and beneficiaries with pertinent information about such things as medical history, where documents are stored, and who to contact regarding financial accounts and insurance. We have created one such document for our clients that we call Important Family Financial Information. This is a comprehensive document for our clients to complete and store in a secure location, and then tell trusted persons where this is kept. Please contact our office if you would like a copy.
Ultimately, when we pass away, we want as little financial and administrative burden on our loved ones. Show them you love them by planning well.
This information is not intended to be a substitute for individualized legal advice. Please consult your legal advisor regarding your specific situation.