While no one wants to think about his or her mortality or how the family will cope after their death, failing to plan for these events can be disastrous while a person is still alive and create confusion and anger for their family later.
Fortunately, making vital health and financial decisions while you’re still in good health and working with an experienced estate planning attorney can help avoid those problems for everyone.
Five crucial decisions to make now
While estate planning covers a broad range of topics, here are the ones to put at the top of the list:
Health care wishes: Make sure your family knows your medical preferences before a crisis strikes. That helps those closest to you make the right decisions. You can document your wishes with:
- Health care proxy, or medical power of attorney
- Living will
- Medical order for life-sustaining treatment
- Organ donation
- Internment agreement
Choose an executor: The person you select to manage your estate can be but doesn’t have to be a lawyer. Above all, he or she should be someone you trust who understands the responsibilities.
Asset protection: Protecting income and assets should be a priority at all stages of life and especially after your death. Take these steps to enhance security:
- Designate a financial power of attorney
- Discuss the details of your trust with heirs
- Minimize tax liabilities for beneficiaries
Finalize will and communicate with heirs: Ensure that your will correctly and clearly expresses your wishes for how your assets are distributed. While you may be hesitant to discuss the contents with heirs, you should strongly consider it, especially if there’s a chance some are under the wrong impression of what they will inherit.
Create a comprehensive file: Lastly, once you’ve made those decisions, place all crucial documents, accounts, passwords, plans and other essential information into a “need-to-know” file. This will make it easier for everyone to carry out your wishes.
Create peace of mind with a comprehensive estate plan
Just thinking about end-of-life issues can cause a great deal of anxiety for anyone. However, making these decisions while still of “sound mind and body” can provide significant relief for you now and make it easier for your family later.