Most people don’t have any idea where to start when it comes to their emergency documents. This often keeps them from going anywhere near their estate planning. This is a big mistake, says a recent article, “3 tasks your family needs to complete to ease any anxiety over unexpected emergencies,” from MarketWatch.
Estate planning is not just about wealthy people putting assets into trusts to avoid paying taxes. Estate planning includes preparing for life as well as death. This consists of a parent preparing for surgery, for instance, who needs the proper documents in place so family members can make emergency medical or financial decisions on their behalf. Estate planning also means being prepared for the unexpected.
Power of Attorney. Everyone over 18 should have a POA, so a trusted person can take over their financial decisions. The POA can be as specific or broad as desired and must follow the person’s state of residence laws.
Medical Directives. This includes a Medical Power of Attorney, HIPAA authorization, and a Living Will. The Medical POA allows you to appoint an agent to make healthcare decisions on your behalf. A HIPAA authorization allows someone else to access medical records—you need this so your agent can talk with all medical and health insurance personnel. A living will conveys your wishes concerning the end of life care. It’s a serious document, and many prefer to avoid it, which is a mistake.
All of these documents are part of an estate plan. They answer the hard questions in advance rather than putting family members in the terrible situation of guessing what a loved one wants.
An estate plan includes a will, and it might also include a trust. The will covers the distribution of property upon death, names an executor to be in charge of the estate, and, if there are minor children, is used to name a guardian who will raise them.
A list of important information is not required by law. However, it should be created when working on your estate plan. This includes important contacts from doctors to CPAs and financial advisors. Even more helpful would consist of a complete health profile with dates of previous surgeries, current medications with dosage information, and pharmacy information.
Don’t overlook information about your digital life. Names of financial institutions, account numbers, usernames, and passwords are all needed if your agent needs to access funds. Do not place any of this information in your will, as you’ll be handing thieves the keys to the vault. Create a separate document with this information and tell your agent where to find it if needed. Get help from an experienced estate planning attorney to ensure you are protected.
Reference: MarketWatch (Nov. 19, 2022) “3 tasks your family needs to complete to ease any anxiety over unexpected emergencies.”