Proper estate planning is truly a gift to your family or other beneficiaries. While planning for one’s incapacity and demise is not exactly an enjoyable topic, it can be very satisfying to both you and your family once you realize the benefits that you have passed on to your family, including avoidance of difficult and expensive pitfalls. Here are 10 things you can do for the benefit of your family:
1. Set up and fund a Revocable Living Trust to save your family the time, cost and burden of probate.
2. Have a Will that disposes of your remaining assets according to your wishes, nominates an executor to administrator your estate, and identify whether a bond should be required and whether the estate should be administered in a supervised or unsupervised setting.
3. Have a durable power of attorney that would appoint an individual (often a close family member) to handle your affairs in the event you become temporarily or permanently incapacitated. The Power of Attorney avoids the need for court proceedings to declare you incompetent and to have a guardian appointed to manage your property.
4. Have a health care declaration that states your wishes regarding life support and end-of-life decisions, and setting forth your wishes regarding your health care so that the appointed health care agent can make and form decisions about your health care if you are unable to express your own wishes.
5. Have a HIPPA authorization naming a specific individual who can talk to your doctors and get your medical information in the event you are unable to consent when the information is needed.
6. Thoroughly review the advantages and disadvantages of life insurance, not only from an estate planning perspective but also in the event that your family members are dependent upon you for support.
7. Review the beneficiary designation on your retirement accounts and life insurance policies and make sure they name the proper individuals, including possibly a trust. In most cases this will avoid the possibility of such a retirement benefits or life insurance policies being paid to your estate (which automatically happens if you do not designate a beneficiary).
8. Consider an umbrella liability insurance policy in addition to the insurance coverage you have in place to ensure against risk that can possibly put your estate in jeopardy due to serious accidents or other liability.
9. Make sure than someone, such as the nominated personal representative, knows the whereabouts of your important documents such as those listed in this article. Also let family members know your wishes for funeral and burial arrangements, especially if you have already purchased a burial plot.
10. Enjoy your loved ones while you have a chance.
As with most projects, getting started is the most difficult part. Once the process has begun, momentum builds quickly and much of what needs to be accomplished can be put into place in a relatively short period of time. The best part is the satisfaction of knowing that you have helped your family avoid a very difficult time, particularly when you are incapacity or you demise is sudden and unexpected. For more information on estate planning, please contact Nic Wenner at (612) 355-2202.