It is hard to believe that 2017 is almost over! As we get ready to embark on the holiday season, all of us at Bivens and Associates, PLLC hope you enjoy spending time with your loved ones. But we would be remiss if we did not also point out this is the perfect time of year to review and update your estate planning documents, and talk to your family about your intentions.
While those near and dear to us are around, it is the perfect opportunity to discuss future plans. Estate planning is about life’s transitions, not only one’s demise. For seniors, in particular, it can be a rare opportunity to have the whole family available to discuss their future physical and emotional needs and plan for their intentions. To alleviate the awkwardness and stress of discussing these topics, here are a few suggestions:
- Healthcare Decision Makers. Review your medical directives and discuss with the agents nominated in these document the types of medical decisions you would or would not want made. If you do not have a Healthcare Power of Attorney, Mental Health Care Power of Attorney, or Living Will then now is the time to establish them. The purpose of these documents is to nominate your loved ones to make medical decisions on your behalf in the event you are unable to communicate and make decisions on your own, and provide direction as to the medical treatment you would or would not want. Having these documents means in the event of crisis, you have agents ready to step in for you instead of requiring the Court to get involved.
- Financial Decision Makers. Review your Financial Power of Attorney and your Trust. If you could no longer make wise financial decisions, do your Agents and Trustees know that they are nominated to step into your shoes and continue carrying out your financial matters? Do they know what assets and accounts you own, who your attorney, tax accountant, financial advisor, insurance brokers and bankers are? Now would be a good time to review this information with them. It is also a good idea to review your assets and ensure they are properly titled and designate the correct beneficiaries to coordinate with your estate plan.
- Review your Will and Trust. Often, people are nominated in various roles and those individuals have passed away, moved away or are no longer in a condition to assist you in your time of need. Additionally, beneficiaries may have passed away, been born or your relationships have changed, such that your estate plan may be outdated and no longer comport with your wishes.
- Organize your important papers and financial records. Where are all the important papers of life such as birth and marriage certificates, legal documents, bank statements, deeds, etc., and have you told someone where these are located?
May this time of merriment be a reminder to you to review your estate plan, and be sure your affairs are in order. Make this your gift to your family this season; a good estate plan is the gift of a legacy, and not a mess. The more open you are with your loved ones, the easier it will be in a time of crisis or confusion. If you would like to review your estate plan with an attorney, contact Bivens and Associates, PLLC for a complimentary review. Additionally, feel free to schedule a “family meeting” where you and your nominated Agents can gather for a comprehensive meeting so they can understand their duties when they are acting on your behalf.
-Rachel S. Zaslow, Esq.