A few days ago, I posted an article on Facebook titled “Five Reasons to Create an Estate Plan Now.” The Today Show on NBC had a segment on this week discussing similar matters. The segment titled “Plan for Retirement and Beyond With This Helpful Checklist” featured the Today Show anchors with NBC money expert Stephanie Ruhle discussing why we need a plan. As the segment mentions, 60% of Americans do not have a will or other plans for their or their children’s future in the event something happens to them. Here is the checklist they outlined:
Will/Guardianship – Many people think that they do not have a lot of money so they don’t need a will. However, a will provides more than just a way to say who gets your property when you die. A major benefit of a will is the ability to name who will care for your children if both parents die before the children are grown. Moreover, using your will to create a trust for your minor children (or your grandchildren) can alleviate huge headaches down the road if something happens to you before they turn eighteen. I consulted on a case the day I wrote this where a child inherited a piece of real estate from his grandmother because his father predeceased him. This family, of modest means, really needs to sell the property soon. However, they will have to go to the probate court and get permission to sell the land now. The judge will determine the price, the terms of the sale and who will get to hold the money. The cost of this process will eat into the proceeds of the sale and delay things. All of which could have been avoided on the front end by simple planning.
Health Proxy – Texas provides for two main types for health care advance directives: (1) a Medical Power of Attorney and (2) a Directive to Physicians (commonly called a living will). These documents give you the power to say who will make your medical decisions when you cannot make them yourself and what you want to do in end of life situations. As mentioned in the segment, these documents can help minimize some of the stress, heartache, and family strife that can come when a loved one is ill.
Powers of Attorney – The guest does a fair job of explaining a Durable Power of Attorney. The main thing to remember is that this is a document that allows you to designate an agent to handle your financial and property affairs for you. It can take effect immediately or you can draft it to only take effect when you become incapacitated. The “durable” part is language in the power of attorney that makes it continue to be effective once you become incapacitated.
Lists of Passwords (and lists of other important matters) – Ms. Ruhle advocates making sure you have a way to give people access to your online accounts and access to your cell phone. Keeping a list of passwords can be a security risk and may be difficult to maintain but having a list or making sure at least one family member knows how to access your digital life is important. Password manager apps could be helpful with this. Also, I would add that you should have a list of your major assets, bank accounts, IRAs, and insurance policies so that, when the time comes, your loved ones can find these things.
Organize and Declutter – you should have an obvious place where you keep things like deeds and car titles and other important papers so that your loved ones can access these things in the future. Get rid of unnecessary paperwork and organize the rest. If there are family heirlooms that you want to go to specific people talk to your estate planning attorney about that or give them away now so that you and your family member can enjoy the gift together.
The Today Show page doesn’t seem to cooperate with a direct link to its site but you can watch the video through the firm’s Facebook Page.