Imagine you are seriously ill, and finish this sentence about living: I want to live if I can…. Now finish this sentence about your death: I want mine to be. Then follow up with these questions.
- Do you have an advance directive that will tell your medical team what level of intervention you want if you ever become unable to speak for yourself?
- Do you have a health care proxy? This document gives someone the formal authority to act as your representative when your medical team is considering your treatment. Your health care proxy will speak up for you–following through on what you have laid out in your advance directive–if you are unable to communicate your wishes directly.
- Do you have a revocable trust with an incapacity clause? That’s what will enable someone you trust to step in and take care of you–and your finances–if you can no longer run things yourself.
Take care of your loved ones:
- Do you have young children? You can appoint a guardian of your choosing if you have a trust. If you die without this in place, a court-appointed judge is going to have a say in who becomes guardian.
- Do you have a revocable living trust? Without one, your heirs may end up in probate court–which takes time and money–to settle your estate.
- Do you have assets from an earlier marriage? If you are remarried, you may have assets you acquired before this marriage that you want to pass along to someone else other than your current spouse. For example, maybe your new spouse is moving into your house. What happens if you die first? Do you want your spouse to inherit the house, or would you prefer that your spouse remain in the house as long as he/she wants, but it is inherited by a child(ren) from a previous marriage? This is a common situation that can be addressed with some estate planning