“I’ll take care of that tomorrow.” So goes the all-too-easy response to the thought of dealing with life’s most important, though seemingly less urgent, questions. “There’s still time. After all, I’m in control of my life, my family’s welfare, and my finances. I know what’s best for me and my family, don’t I?”
Sure you do. But, what about when you’re no longer in control? What happens when someone else has to make the big decisions you’re used to making, someone who may not know how you would have made them?
Are your life, the welfare of your spouse, that of your children – perhaps even their guardianship – and your financial portfolio really things you’d prefer to leave to chance? If so, keep singing “Luck, be a lady tonight,” throw the dice, and hope for the best.
Otherwise, keep reading!
The Big Issues
Life’s big issues largely boil down to the management of physical assets and health concerns. So, let’s have a look at four tools that can be used to get – and keep – everything in good order.
A last will makes clear your intentions regarding how you want your personal and financial affairs managed after your death. We’ve all seen dramatizations of will readings, where well-dressed family members sit at uncomfortable attention with pursed lips, waiting for their names to be mentioned favorably.
Drama aside, a last will is a powerful tool for maintaining family harmony during a trying time and for effectively distributing your assets after you’ve passed on to the next world. Without such a document, the government steps in and essentially picks up the ball where you dropped it.
A living trust, meanwhile, distributes your assets over time, while you are still alive, effectively avoiding probate and protecting those assets from creditors – and, for that matter, from anyone else who might get a fancy to taking hold of them.
These trusts used to be the domain of the ultra wealthy, as means of preserving the family fortune intact from one generation to another. Today, anyone can enjoy the benefits, regardless of the size of the estate in question.
A financial power of attorney (POA) names some person designated by you to handle your financial and business affairs in the event of your incapacitation, whether temporary or permanent. Should the house be sold? What about the business: should it be sold or just dissolved? Again, these aren’t exactly matters to leave to the throw of the dice.
Regarding Health and Life
Like the financial POA, a healthcare power of attorney names some person to make medical decisions (potentially life-altering) on your behalf, in the event that you can no longer make them for yourself, whether by reason of temporary incapacitation or some permanent state.
Tied to this legal instrument is what we call a “living will,” which offers advanced directives regarding possible end-of-life health issues, such as the use of extraordinary means of treatment. Examples include ventilators that breathe on your behalf and organ transplants. You may want this type of care, and you may not want it. Either way, it’s a good idea to make your wishes known.
Bottom line: the person designated by your healthcare power of attorney may be called to make potentially huge decisions on your behalf, even ones of life and death.
An Ounce of Prevention . . .
Sadly, many people do not have these vital documents in place, leaving their loved ones to deal with the probate court and medical systems. The result can be added burden during an already difficult time, plus the costs of probate and family strife, as relations feud with one another over sensitive issues like asset management and distribution, as well as much more important personal end-of-life questionsb
Is that really the legacy you want to leave behind you? Doubt? Confusion? Strife? I doubt it. So, take action and get these matters in order. Click the link below and you’ll see just how easy and affordable this process can be!