Estate Planning Awareness Week kicks off on October 18. In recognition, I hope you take this opportunity to bring some basic estate planning topics to your dinner table for discussion. By talking about these important topics with your family and close friends, it makes the realities of estate planning bearable and your wishes more likely to be effectuated. To help in your conversation, consider these top three topics to break the ice and put a plan together for you and your family.
1. Who will make decisions for you when you can’t make them for yourself? Typically, these questions center around health and financial decision making for someone who has been deemed incompetent. The most efficient way to appoint a decision maker is to sign a Power of Attorney for Healthcare and Power of Attorney for Finances. By signing a Power of Attorney, you can appoint an agent to handle day-to-day and more significant decisions. For example, determining where you should live if you need long-term care and are not competent to make that decision for yourself.
2. Who gets your stuff? I think people would be surprised to learn that, oftentimes, it is the sentimental items which garner the most strife among family members. By deciding in advance who gets father’s wedding ring or mother’s prized dish set, it can help sort through the personal property left behind after someone passes away. I recommend taking pictures of those assets you want to be certain are given to a specific person. That way, there is no question as to your wishes. It is important to talk about big items, too, such as bank and retirement accounts, the family home, and life insurance, to name a few. By making sure your family has general information about what you have and who to contact, it makes it easier to access the information when you are no longer around to ask.
3. Who gets your children? If you have minor children, it is important to talk about who would care for them in the event of your early passing. By naming a guardian in your Last Will and Testament, you afford that person priority of appointment by a court if a guardianship for your minor child needs to be established. Are you a single parent? Understanding the rights of your estranged co-parent can also be helpful in developing a plan in the event of tragedy. Plans for a guardian can also work hand-in-hand with discussion regarding what assets will be available to care for your children and how they will be managed and distributed.
Ready to start talking about your own plan? A qualified estate planning attorney can answer your questions regarding what is best for your situation.