Prior Estate Planning to Protect Yourself and Your Family
Proper Esate Planning protects us and our family because none of us knows what kind of unexpected surprises will occur in our lives. We’d like to believe they will all be happy events, like winning the big Power Ball jackpot. However, unpleasant things like illness or a flood or fire often occur. We never think it will happen to us, says The Dalles Chronicle’s article “Prepare now for emergencies.” Unfortunately, these things do happen, and when they do, being prepared can make all the difference between a stressful situation and a really awful situation that could have been made, well, less awful.
For starters, have you met with an estate planning attorney to create a comprehensive estate plan that includes a last will and testament, a financial power of attorney and a health care power of attorney? The will concerns distribution of your possessions and property, the power of attorney gives a trusted person the ability to take financial and legal actions on your behalf, in the event that you become incapacitated and the medical power of attorney allows someone to make health care decisions for you, also if you become incapacitated. There are also many other tools that an estate planning attorney can help you with, such as a Special Needs Trust, if your family includes a family member with special needs, or other trusts, if they are needed.
Next, your emergency preparations should include having important documents assembled in a notebook, on a memory stick and/or a safe location. Imagine there was an emergency evacuation and you had to leave your home immediately. What documents would you need? Here’s a checklist:
- Contact information for family members, doctors, attorneys, dentist, insurance broker, financial advisor.
- Cash, so if ATMs are not working, you will have cash on hand.
- Identification documents, including originals of your birth certificate, marriage license, divorce papers, passport, Social Security card, health insurance cards (or Medicare or Medicaid cards).
- A video of your home and all of your possessions on your mobile phone. Consider emailing it to a family member or friend who lives in a different location.
- Insurance policies for home, auto, disability, long-term care, etc. Include contact information for either 800-numbers or your local agent, if you need to file a claim.
- A copy of recent financial statements for credit cards, banks, brokerage firms, retirement accounts, car loans, mortgage and similar types of accounts.
- Copies of the last three years of tax returns. If you work with a CPA, they should have them on a secure portal, but a hard copy will be useful to have.
- Legal documents for your estate plan, including the will, power of attorney and health care power of attorney, as described above.
- Other legal documents, including car registration, car title and property deed to your home.
These documents should all be organized in a folder that is placed in your home where you and your spouse know where it is and can grab it on your way out the door.
One more item that should be noted in this digital age: if you use a laptop or tablet that contains websites that you use frequently for personal finance, investments, etc., be mindful of its location in the house, so you can grab it and a charger cable quickly. If you have passwords for accounts—and most of us do—you should print them out and include them in your file folder for easy access. You can almost always re-set a password, but how much easier will rebuilding your life be if you have them on hand?
If you do ever face a catastrophic emergency, having these materials will save you hours of time and stress.
Reference: The Dalles Chronicle (July 16, 2019) “Prepare now for emergencies”