Here’s that question again: do you have a Will?
In financial planning, the question of the Will is standard. Why? Well, do you have assets? Do you have under-age children? Do you have a spouse? These are just a few basic questions to give direction to your thought process.
If you (and your spouse) were to disappear tonight, what would happen to these “things” you presumably hold dear? Without a Will, a court decision as to guardianship, or distribution, etc. could be the result of your lack of planning. Do you find this acceptable?
Estate planning documents such as a Will, Living Will, Durable Power of Attorney, etc. are essential for everyone. This is particularly true for unmarried couples; the law assumes inheritance passes to next of kin!
You can download documents or scribble on a yellow pad, and this would be marginally better than nothing, but an attorney (specializing in estate planning) should be consulted. Additionally, these documents should be updated every 5-7 years as our lives inevitably change.
Here are some documents to be created for your (and your family’s) well-being
Will. The Will describes your intentions; what you would like done with your property after your death, and designates by whom. This is particularly important when young children are involved.
Durable Power of Attorney (POA). This gives another party the “power” to makes decisions on your behalf if you become incapable of doing so.
Living Will. This states what measures you want taken (or not) if you are in a vegetative state, and unlikely to recover.
Health Care Proxy. This lets medical personnel know who is empowered to make (medical care) decisions if you are unable to do so yourself.
This is not an exhaustive list but provides the basics to be discussed with an attorney.
Additionally, there are pieces of your financial life that should be addressed and reviewed at least every few years, but annually is highly preferable:
Beneficiary Designations. Are the beneficiaries listed on your life insurance, your “period certain” annuities, and your various “financial instruments” (where applicable) current and correct? Has there been a change as to whom you want to receive your assets?
Most Important: A listing of policies, accounts, assets, instructions, and their locations. Any system that not only lists all information, but also provides a system to update should be found, created, and used religiously throughout our lives.
We are encouraging people to investigate www.HeirAtlas.com as a receptacle and program for both cataloguing the information mentioned, and updating as well. The author is a founder of Heir Atlas, Inc. and wholeheartedly believes in its purpose. See if you agree.