Christmas is in 12 days, so I thought it appropriate to use the "12 Days of Christmas" theme to talk about the fact that estate planning is truly a gift to your family or other beneficiaries. While planning for one’s incapacity and demise is not exactly a cheery topic, the holidays are about spending time with and enjoying family, and giving to others. So, here are 12 things you can do for the benefit of your family:
1. Set up and fund a Living Trust to save your family the time, cost and burden of probate.
2. Have a Will that names an executor to handle your estate, waives the requirement of bond, and clearly states where you want your assets to go at your death.
3. Have Durable Power of Attorney so that if you become incapacitated your family does not have to institute a court proceeding to have you declared incompetent and have a guardian appointed to manage your property.
4. Have a Health Care Power of Attorney that sets out your wishes regarding your health care so that family members can make informed decisions about your health care if you can’t express your own wishes.
5. Have a Living Will that states what your wishes are regarding life support in end-of-life situations so that your family doesn’t have to guess what you would have wanted.
6. Have a HIPAA Authorization naming your family members so that they can talk to your doctors and get your medical information in case you aren’t in a position to consent at the time.
7. If you have anyone who is dependent on you for support, make sure you have adequate Life Insurance, as well as disability insurance.
8. Make sure that your Beneficiary Designations for retirement accounts and life insurance are up to date and name the proper persons (e.g. not your estate, as that will trigger probate and possibly adverse income tax consequences).
9. Consider Long Term Care Insurance to ensure payment for any needed care and to help preserve your children’s inheritance.
10. Have an Umbrella Liability Insurance Policy so that your estate is not wiped out due to an a serious accident or other liability.
11. Let your family know what your wishes are for Funeral and Burial arrangements.
12. Spend quality time with your loved ones, sharing your family history, values, and what else is important to you to help ensure an Emotional Legacy as well as a financial one.
Merry Christmas to all!