BOSTON (CBS) – According to a recent Rocket Lawyer survey, a surprising 32% of Americans would rather do their taxes, get a root canal, or give up sex for a month than create or update their will. And even more Americans find it difficult to have conversations about their estate planning.
So talking to your elderly dad about estate planning could be a disaster. Dad may think you are after his money or he may be embarrassed to let you know how little he has.
But you could be one of the lucky ones and dad has already done everything needed and will tell you where the papers are. Mention to him that you heard this financial planner on the radio and you realize you need to get your affairs in order.
Ask what has he done to get his affairs in order? If he says “nothing”, offer to help referring to the documents I have listed. If he says “yes”, ask where are the documents?
Estate planning does not need to be complicated. A will allows you to give your assets, the stuff you own, to your heirs. If there is a complicated situation such as second or third marriage with kids from each marriage or lots of money involved then you need to do some fancy estate planning.
A living trust you use while you are alive and upon your death your assets are distributed to your beneficiaries by your trustee and bypasses the probate process. This makes it very easy on the heirs and avoids probate.
Naming someone as the beneficiary of your IRA, retirement plan, insurance policy or annuity also supersedes the will and bypasses the probate process.
A Durable Power of Attorney is a legal document used while one is still alive. It allows you to choose someone to act as your attorney-in-fact to make decisions legally or financially if you are not able to do so.
A Medical Directive, allows you to tell the medical community how you want to be treated if you cannot make medical decisions for yourself. In Massachusetts it is a Health Care Proxy, which allows you to choose someone to make those decisions for you.
One more thing: When choosing someone to act as your power of attorney or health care proxy choose one person with a second as an alternate. If you have two children do not put both their names on the document. If they fought about the jellybeans in their Easter basket they will fight about your health care.
And do speak with the person you would like to be your proxy before putting their name on the document.
Also, a new book: Check List for my Family: a Guide to my History, Financial Plans and Final Wishes. Helps you put your life in order by gathering in one place your online accounts. Finances, legal documents, wishes about medical care and more. It tells you what you need and why and what’s missing and where to get it. Available at AARP, bookstores or amazon.
You can hear Dee Lee’s expert financial advice on WBZ NewsRadio 1030 each weekday at 1:55 p.m., 3:55 p.m., and 7:55 p.m.
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