I have written Blog-Posts before about Estate Planning and the need to update your Will from time-to-time. Also, as you get into your 60s and, perhaps, are thinking about Retirement, a Durable Power-of-Attorney (POA) and Health Care Surrogate are also important. These documents are vital for you to name who you wish to settle your Estate, handle your business affairs when you cannot and, likewise, make medical decisions for you. Be sure to name a Successor for each of those roles–not necessarily the same person–to act if the originally-named person cannot act on your behalf.
The linked article, by Michelle Singletary, “Get affairs in order before it’s too late”, is from the Columbus Dispatch, http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/business/2014/03/23/get-affairs-in-order-before-its-too-late.html. Michelle writes The Color of Money column regularly and it is syndicated in various newspapers, generally on Sundays.
As you can read in her column, she is sharing a personal situation which very often happens. Estate Planning is an important topic that everyone should address and, as Ms. Singletary has learned the hard way–before its too late. Don’t put if off!
Many of us drive on busy streets and highways, dealing with careless drivers. and illness or injury can strike at any time. Besides your Family and Friends, also think of the Health Care Professionals who will have enough to do with taking care of your medical needs; so don’t compound that with their having to deal with the Court System.
As the article notes, only about 35% of people even have a basic Will. Update it every so often too; because, over time: people should be added or deleted from old documents; your finances have probably changed and if you moved to a different state, you will surely need new documents.
Make sure that whoever will be your Executor, POA and Health Care Surrogate know where these Documents are. Review them with those appointed. YOUR SAFE DEPOSIT BOX IS NOT THE BEST PLACE FOR THESE DOCUMENT; BECAUSE, (DEPENDING ON THE STATE) THE BOX MIGHT BE SEALED. If you have a cemetery plot, place a copy of that document, with the records, for your Executor.
It is also good to provide a Letter to your Executor to advise of your wishes for certain things of a more personal matter: do you wish to be dressed more formal or casual on your way out; disposition of personal items such as certain pieces of jewelry or other items; do you wish a religious or secular service, or None, and how about military honors? How about a favorite beverage poured on your grave or, perhaps, your business vehicle in the funeral procession, if any? Now, don’t laugh!
As an aside, we attended a secular memorial service for an avid fisherman who was retired. He and a group of friends went out on a charter fishing boat five days-per-week. His fishing buddies attended, wearing their fishing togs and one even gave the Eulogy. The Boat Captain’s panel delivery van–with a big fish painted on the side–was a vital part of the funeral procession to the cemetery. This was a very fitting touch!
You might think the expense of consulting with an Attorney to update your Estate Plan too costly; however, I would turn that around and say that it might be more expensive not to. Sure, you don’t consider yourself particularly wealthy; however, take an inventory of what it might be if you were to pass away. Add-up the value of any Life Insurance; Financial Assests, including IRAs; company-sponsored Retirement Plans; Business Interests, if any and other personal effects. Any mistakes or omissions in the documents could end-up causing even greater expenses to your Estate or Beneficiaries.
NOTE: If you are incapacitated or otherwise cannot manage your affairs, a General Power-of-Attorney might be invalid. Only a Durable POA would suffice at that time.