Getting Your Affairs in Order for 2020
The New Year often brings with it a time of reflection and planning. It is also a great time to get your affairs in order to assure that your medical and financial needs will be managed as you choose and to assure that your estate will be dispersed according to your wishes. Taking care of these matters now allows you to make thoughtful plans for various needs rather than rushing to address them while also coping with serious medical or financial issues. Or worse, waiting too long and leaving everything in someone else’s hands.
What it Means to Get Your Affairs in Order
What getting your affairs in order means will depend on your circumstances, but at a minimum, you should have the following:
A Will. Planning how your assets will be distributed after your death is important to assure that this process occurs in accordance with your choices. Personal and charitable bequests, trusts for future generations, and more should be detailed in a legally binding and enforceable document.
Advanced Directives. Sometimes called a living will, this document directs what you want and do not want with regard to prolonging your life. This document is legally binding but you need to give a copy to the person designated to be contacted in the event of an emergency so that he or she can bring it to the hospital. It is also a good idea to provide a copy to your primary care physician to keep in your medical records.
Durable Power of Attorney. Similar to advanced directives, it is important to designate someone to make medical and financial decisions if you are unable to do so for yourself. Remember, you will be making all of your own medical and financial decisions unless you can’t. This person should also have a copy of your advanced directives.
Funeral Instructions. Making your funeral wishes known will take a burden off of your loved ones, allowing them to focus on their grief. These instructions can be as general or as detailed as you wish, but it helps to give others guidance in this matter. It is also worth considering a final expense plan that pre-pays for your funeral expenses.
To assure that each of these documents is legally binding, it is strongly recommended that you hire an attorney who specializes in this legal specialty.
Collect and Organize Records
In addition to executing the above documents, it is also helpful to organize your personal records to make it easy for both you and your loved ones to locate them. There are several types of records and it helps to organize them by categories rather than keep them jumbled together.
These records are those that record your life history and include the following:
- Full legal name
- Social security number
- Legal residence
- Birth certificate with place and date of birth
- Other certificates such as marriage, divorce, citizenship, adoption, etc.
- Employment history
- Education and military records
- Contact names and phone numbers, including relatives, lawyers, financial advisors, and close friends
- Living will and other legal documents
It is always helpful to keep an updated list of past and current medical issues including the following:
- List of current medications including dosage
- Physicians’ names and contact information
- List of recent procedures including date and name of physician providing the care
- History of other medical procedures
- Social Security and Medicare information
- Sources of income including pensions, assets, IRAs, 401ks, etc.
- Insurance information, including life, health, long-term care, home and auto. Include the policy numbers as well as the agents’ names and contact information
- Investment income, including stocks, bonds, property, etc., and stockbrokers’ names and contact information
- Copy of the most recent income tax return
- Location of current will or trust with original signature
- Liabilities, such as mortgage payments and payment schedule, and other liabilities
- The location of the original deed of trust for the home, and the car title and registration
- A list of credit and debit card names and numbers
- Location of the safety deposit box and key
Organizing this information allows you to evaluate the assets you have to meet for your living and medical expenses as well as understand the estate that you will distribute through your will or trust. Also, having this information gathered and organized allows the probate of your will to go smoothly. We can assist in creating legacy lock-box systems that are designed specifically for this organizing purpose.
To manage the process of getting your affairs in order, start with scheduling an appointment with an attorney. Life Counsel & Planning is a law firm that specializes in helping its clients create and execute personalized wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and more. We are here to answer your questions and help make this process as easy as possible. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.