- If you became unconscious today, who would manage your finances and make your health care decisions?
- If you died today, would others know what to do and who to contact?
- Does anyone know where to find the documents they would need?
Death, severe injury, and disability are not usual topics for the kitchen table, but are necessary to make sure your wishes are carried out, and that you are not subject to the default conclusions of the state law where you live. The urgency of these decisions is heightened when (1) you and your life partner are not officially married; (2) you have children: or (3) you have no partner nor children.
For all of the documents discussed below, you need to have two persons named for each, in case one is not available.
Documents Needed While You Are Living
These three are needed if you become too ill to manage your finances or make decisions about your health care. Both require you to sign the documents in front of a notary.
1. Durable Power of Attorney for Finances. Also known as a financial power of attorney, this allows the person to manage your finances (e.g., pay your bills) if you are too ill.
2. Power of Attorney for Health Care. This allows the designated person to make health care decisions on your behalf if you cannot communicate your wishes.
3. Advance Health Care Directive. Also called a “living will,” this spells out the type of care or life-sustaining measures you want – or don’t want.
Documents Needed After Your Death
If these matters are in order, there will be no problems getting your wishes respected and carried out.
4. Will. This provides information needed to give what you have left to the persons you want to have it. This applies to everything from your home, to your car, to anything you possess. Equally important, this is where you designate a guardian for your minor children.
5. Naming of Personal Representative (Executor). This responsible person will oversee that everything is distributed as your will describes. This person must be informed of where your important documents (including your will) are located.
6. Funeral and Burial Wishes. If you want your wishes for end-of-life identified and carried out, they need to be clearly identified – often in a separate document (as such choices left in a will are not always considered in the hectic days following a death). Many find that preplanning a funeral or cremation simplify decisions for those left behind.
7. Trust. A revocable living trust is another option. While a living trust takes a bit more time and costs more to establish, it will avoid probate, keeping your estate private and making it easier and faster to settle. In some states, like California, probate is lengthy and expensive, so trusts are more common. In Washington, on the other hand, probate is cheaper and less burdensome. Consulting an estate attorney is key.
Other Important Considerations
8. Update Beneficiary Designations. Your will controls probate property, which includes jewelry, automobiles, and investment accounts, and certain type of jointly owned real estate or businesses. A will does not control non-probate assets, which include retirement accounts, IRAs, 401(k)s, annuities, and life insurance. Non-probate pass directly to the named beneficiaries. This is why your beneficiary designations must be kept up-to-date.
9. Real Estate. Property that is titled as “joint tenancy with rights of survivorship” is transferred without regards to your will. This is how homes are usually titled. Pay attention to any out-of-state property, as probate may be required in that state if proper steps are not made in advance.
10. Pets. Do you have a plan in place for the care of the animals with whom you shared your life? This includes identifying the new owner, with provisions identified for their care. Digital Assets.
11. Digital accounts are part of your property. These includes social media accounts, online photos, cloud-based documents, online subscriptions, credit card rewards, and online businesses. The listing of these accounts and login details (including passwords) need to kept securely – with the executor of your estate informed appropriately.
12. Keep documents organized and accessible. Consider keeping your documents — along with property deeds, insurance policies, a list of your accounts and contact information for your attorney or advisers — in a safe place in your home and/or on your computer. A safe-deposit box isn't the best place, as it could take a court order for someone to access it if it's in your name only. Also, make sure your primary care physician and your hospital have a copy of your advance health care directive and health care power of attorney. Such preparations are huge gifts to your spouse, partner, children, or whoever is tasked with managing your affairs if something happens to you.
13. Talk to your loved ones. Let them know who you are and how you would like to be remembered. If you have young children, consider chronicling your life and stories to be shared with them. This is your life and your legacy – nothing is too big or too small.It is an inevitable part of life that we will all eventually pass away, and it's crucial to make sure that our loved ones are taken care of when we are no longer here. However, the unfortunate reality is that many individuals fail to take the necessary steps to prepare for the unexpected. This is where a financial advisor can provide valuable assistance. At Pacific Asset Management, our team is here to serve as your guide and help you coordinate the planning process to ensure a smooth transfer of assets and decision-making authority in the event of incapacity or death.
Disclosure: This material is presented solely for information purposes and has been gathered from sources believed to be reliable, however, Pacific Asset Management cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of such information, and certain information presented here may have been condensed or summarized from its original source. The preceding information is not intended to be tax, legal or accounting advice, and nothing contained in these materials should be relied upon as such. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. Nothing in this presentation in intended to serve as personalized investment, tax, or insurance advice, as such advice depends on your individual facts and circumstances. Advisory services are only offered to clients or prospective clients where Pacific Asset Management and its representatives are properly licensed or exempt from licensure. No advice may be rendered by Pacific Asset Management unless a client service agreement is in place.