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Life Planning for the 21st Century

 


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Comments on this website are informational in nature and are not intended to
be interpreted as specific tax advice.   The comments cannot be used to avoid taxes under the Internal Revenue Code or the regulations of other tax authorities. Furthermore, this website is not intended, and should not be interpreted, to support the promotion or marketing of any tax avoidance schemes.

 

Date last modified: 01/26/17
 

Planning for the future is often difficult. We don’t know if we’ll have a job, where we’ll be living, how much money we’ll have or what changes life will throw at us. Besides, most of us have a full plate just taking care of day-to-day life. There are some things, though, that shouldn’t be put off. The unthinkable can happen at any moment – an incapacitating medical emergency, accident, even death.  The unexpected tragedy can happen to anyone of any age – and does, everyday.   Planning for the "worst case" scenario may be the most valuable gift you leave your survivors. 

Life Planning is not for amateurs!  Find a trusted professional to help you navigate all the angles.  Laws differ from state to state, so what may work in the Oregon legal system may not be recognized in Washington, California or any of the other states.  If you move out of the country, you should engage a professional there to help you draw up the documents your survivors will need.

Durable Power of Attorney – you legally designate someone to handle your financial affairs if you are unable to do so yourself. We advise asking someone to be a back up in case the primary person is also incapacitated. Your spouse, adult child or parent is not automatically enabled to authorize business on your behalf. You may want to speak with a lawyer to appoint a Power of Attorney to clarify issues pertinent to your affairs. Your Power of Attorney does not become legally or financially liable for your debts unless he or she co-signs for them. 

A Durable Power of Attorney is a good thing to appoint if your are going to be out of the country on a job or military assignment, or even if you are just on extended travels.  Situations come up and it is good to have someone back home who is legally able to handle them.  Also, some organizations, such as banks, brokerages and Medicare, may have their own power of attorney forms they require you to use.

Personal Will – you are never too young to have a will, even if you don’t think you "have anything to leave anyone". A will can simply state who is to handle your affairs after your death. A will designates who is to be the legal guardian of minor children if both parents are deceased. In Oregon, your will can also include instructions regarding care of your beloved pet.  If you die without a will, state laws will govern how your property will be divided regardless of wishes you may have had.

A will helps avoid a lengthy legal fight over your estate. You don’t think you have any assets to worry about? Do you have a bank account? own a home? a car? jewelry? family heirlooms? You have assets to pass on. Our advice is to consult with a lawyer to draw up a simple will, or a more sophisticated estate plan if you have many assets. The modest investment will pay off.

Of course, wills need to be updated if your life changes – birth of a child, marriage, divorce, etc. Remember, beneficiary designations on IRAs, insurance policies, etc. supersede will provisions. It is wise to review your beneficiary instructions every few years. If you want to provide for a favorite cause after your death, you can do so through your will or by making the organization one of your beneficiaries.

Finally, your signed, original will should be easily accessible upon your death.  Keeping it in your safe deposit box may be risky because, sometimes, they are sealed at the owner's death.  Your attorney may be willing to keep it.  Make sure your heirs know where to find your will.

Living Will and Health Care Proxy – another difficult but critical issue is to clearly express end-of-life care instructions. It is also important to designate someone to make medical decisions in case you are unable to speak for yourself. As with the Power of Attorney, we advise asking a second person to be a back up. In addition, you will want to make sure your primary physician is aware of your wishes. Resources are available on the Internet to guide you through the decisions to be made.  Laws vary from state to state so make sure you set up something that is considered legal in your home state.

Long-Term Care Insurance – we may not want to ever leave our own home, but many of us will need care that family members can’t provide. Long-term care insurance is an investment in the future that can help assure you get the care you need and preserve your estate for your heirs. Long-term care insurance also provides for in-home care. Nursing home/in-home care is not just for the elderly…a devastating accident can mean years of care for a younger person. Contact Bill for more information on long-term care insurance.