In our last blog, we discussed the importance of locating and properly storing all of your essential documents. Having accomplished that goal, it is equally important to maintain some reference to, or list, of all your financial and legal affairs. You may already have such a list and reference sheet, but chances are you have it under lock and key. That may be wise for the moment, but it certainly doesn’t help someone help you later in life (should you become incapacitated and need assistance with your financial and legal affairs).
Disability and death are not something that people enjoy contemplating or discussing. However, it may be the most important discussion you have with your loved ones. Death is a certainty and more people will suffer a disability prior to death than not. With statistics like that, it’s important that everyone plan for disability and death. In doing so, you should keep your affairs in order and readily discoverable by trusted loved ones when the time comes that such important documentation is needed.
At the very least, you should have a list of your trusted advisors with their contact information, such as your accountant, financial advisor, and attorney. Better yet, include a list of your account numbers, types, values and anything else that may be pertinent to their location. If you don’t like making lists, think about keeping account statements together somewhere safe yet accessible by your trusted loved ones when needed.
Even if you have taken heed to this message and created a detailed list of all assets you own, that list is no good to anyone if you haven’t given them authority to act upon those accounts. During life, you need to sign a General Durable Power of Attorney appointing someone trusted to serve as your agent when/if needed. You must sign this document while you are competent; you cannot wait until incapacity to do so, as that indecision results in a court-appointed and supervised guardianship proceeding.
Moreover, if you want to authorize someone to make healthcare decisions on your behalf, should you be unable to communicate with physicians, you need to sign a Healthcare Power of Attorney as well. Finally, you would serve your loved ones best by signing a properly drafted Last Will and Testament prior to your passing in order to appoint an Executor to administer your estate according to your wishes in your Will.
When it comes down to it, both you and your loved ones benefit from you having your affairs in order. To learn more about how to protect your health, wealth and family, please feel free to peruse our website. If you find more questions than answers, you should contact an experienced estate planning attorney to discuss your unique estate planning needs.