A Will, A Trust, Medical Directives

If a large sum of money fell from the sky at your feet, would you be too busy to pick it up? Well, it has…in the form of some of the Tax Acts of Congress. If you are too busy (or use any other excuse) to see an estate planner about putting together an advantageous estate plan, then you just may be leaving some significant money where it lies.

As Forbes personal finance columnist Ashlea Ebeling wrote in her column recently, “If Congress can act, so can you.”

She (and we) suggest you get these documents in order – or review existing documents in light of the tax law changes:

A Will (saying who gets your stuff) Tip: You can name one person who would care for your children as guardian, and another who would manage their finances. A will is especially important if you live in a state with strange intestacy laws that say who gets your stuff if you die without a will.

A Financial Power of Attorney (naming someone to make financial and legal decisions for you if you can’t) Tip: Consider customizing this so it allows your agent to do things like continue making house payments, gifts to minors, or manage investments, or retirement accounts.

A Medical Power of Attorney/Health Care Proxy (naming someone to make medical decisions for you if you can’t) Tip: Make sure it includes a HIPAA provision, allowing your agent to access your medical information under the HIPPA medical privacy rules. Without it, not even your relatives are legally able to discuss or manage your health care (but the government can).

Living Will (stating your wishes about life-prolonging care) Tip: Consider tailoring this to your condition if you have a chronic illness or are concerned about lingering on life support.

Finally, review beneficiary designations on life insurance policies and retirement accounts, including IRAs, as these forms, not your will, determine who gets the payouts when you die.

Everyone needs to have these documents. There are no excuses to ignore your estate planning.

 Jay Lashlee, True Trust Book by Jay Lashlee