Planning Ahead

Staying in Charge of Your Future

Tax laws allow you to build a retirement nest egg in special tax-deferred accounts. The law allows you to prepare written instructions regarding medical treatment in case you become incapacitated. It allows you to appoint someone to make decisions for you if it ever becomes necessary. And it allows you to decide who will inherit your property someday. But the right to have your wishes carried out later is worthless unless you act now - while you still can.

Decide now who you want to help you in case you become disabled.

Meet with an estate planning attorney to review your goals and wishes. The attorney can prepare powers of attorney for you to sign that handle health, mental health, and/or financial matters.

The financial power of attorney can be effective now or upon disability.

The health power of attorney allows the agent to act when you are unable to communicate your wishes. The mental health power of attorney allows an agent to act once a doctor has determined that you are unable to make your own mental health decisions.

Make sure that you understand all of the terms before signing a power of attorney.

Be absolutely certain that your chosen agent is both capable and trustworthy. Despite your trust and thinking it cannot happen to you, there are cases of family members stealing.

If someone’s address has changed, DO NOT write on the document.

Simply note it on a separate page called “contact information.”

All powers of attorney are void at death. Powers of attorney can also be revoked. If your agent needs to start acting for you, you may want to record your financial power of attorney in your county recorder’s office.

The attorney can customize the paperwork so that the following issues are addressed:

  1. Who is to make decisions if you cannot (please list 2 or 3)
  2. Who you do not ever want to make decisions if you cannot (only if appropriate)
  3. Is the agent able to act alone or does the agent have a co-agent; if co-agent, can either act or do they both have to agree
  4. What powers you are giving your agent/fiduciary
  5. What powers you are NOT giving your agent/fiduciary
  6. What you DO or DO NOT want regarding your care
  7. Who has authority to pay your bills and expenses
  8. Whether you want your agent/fiduciary to be paid for services rendered and/or costs incurred
  9. Statement of your goals/wishes/values

Be careful when deciding who you want to name as your agent.

Make sure your agent realizes there can be criminal and civil penalties for abuse of the power of attorney. If you have a power of attorney and realize that money has been stolen from you by your agent, please call Adult Protective Service and/or the police. Consider revoking that power of attorney.

Go over all gifts that you want to make to your agent with your advisor(s).

Please realize that unless you specifically allow gifting, your agent cannot make gifts on your behalf.

If you choose not to sign powers of attorney and then become disabled, someone will need to ask the Court to become Guardian (makes decisions regarding the person) and /or Conservator (decisions about assets) on your behalf.

You can also make choices on organ donation and autopsy. You may want to pre-arrange final arrangements to authorize cremation so that no one has to sign after your death (especially if your heirs are not in agreement with cremation or could be hard to reach).

Make sure the paperwork is properly executed (sign in front of witnesses and notary public as appropriate).

DO NOT add someone as joint tenant to your account if you want someone to be able to help you write checks; instead name them as power of attorney on your account. This way there is accountability by the agent and the agent must spend the money on your behalf. There have been problems of misuse by the joint owner and problems when the joint owner is sued.

 

 

This website has been prepared for general information purposes only. The information on this website is not legal advice. Legal advice is dependent upon the specific circumstances of each situation. Also, the law may vary from state-to-state or county-to-county, so that some information in this website may not be correct for your situation. Finally, the information contained on this website is not guaranteed to be up to date. Therefore, the information contained in this website cannot replace the advice of competent legal counsel licensed in your jurisdiction.

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