Getting your documents organized now will make the transition to your chosen representative either as power of attorney or executor of your will so much simpler and complete. For those that don’t have an estate plan set up, I suggest you start with the following documents, all of which an estate planning attorney can prepare:
1. Durable Power of Attorney– This will allow the person you appoint as your representative to conduct your financial affairs if you are unable to do so, even if you become incompetent.
2. Health Care Proxy– This will allow your representative to communicate your intentions on medical procedures if you are unable to do so.
3. Living will– This will allow your representative to show medical personnel your intentions with regard to remaining alive if you are being sustained by life support which you did not want.
4. Will This will set forth your intentions as to the transfer of your assets as well as the care of minor children once you have died. Your representative , called an executor, will have a road map of what you intended.
5. Revocable Trust– This will allow you to transfer your assets to a new entity, a trust , while you are alive. By doing so your family will not have to incur the expenses of probate when you die. They will simply transfer the assets from the trust to those individuals you name in the trust as the beneficiaries. Your attorney will advise you as to whether you should have a will or trust or both.
Once you have these basic documents you should go out and purchase an accordion file with dividers you can tab for the document contained in that slot. Put this in a fireproof location where your representative knows to find it in the event he or she needs to. Consider adding the following documents to this folder as well: deeds, life insurance policies, stock certificates, bonds, bank account information, etc.
This type of advance planning and document preparation can initially be overwhelming and intimidating. Some people assume that they don’t have enough wealth to warrant the effort. Others blissfully believe that their spouse or children will “do the right thing” once they are gone. This is failing to plan.
Those who get their nerve up and attack the preparation usually report feeling great relief and satisfaction upon completion of the project. your loved ones will also thank you for sparing them the inevitable disappointment, incompleteness and guesswork that can result from not having your guidance. Give yourself the gift of peace of mind. Give your loved ones the gift of certainty during uncertain times. Plan ahead!
Why not start setting up your file today. I have been guiding families through this process for over 25 years. I am available to help your family as well. Contact my office at 718-377-8880 to schedule a free consultation or send me an e-mail at [email protected].
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