BOSTON (CBS) – Estate Planning is an awkward subject to discuss for it involves someone dying! Getting one’s affairs in order while still competent is important.
You may be one of the lucky ones and dad has already done everything needed and will tell you where the papers are. If not, start with some casual comments. Mention to him that you heard this financial planner on the radio and you realize you need to get your affairs in order.
What has he done to get his affairs in order? If he says “nothing”, offer to help, suggest making an appointment with an attorney and go with him if he needs moral support. If he says “yes”, ask where the documents are.
Estate planning does not need to be complicated. A will allows you to give your assets, the stuff you own, to your heirs. Easy to do and does not have to be expensive. 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 any publicity.
Naming someone as the beneficiary of your IRA, insurance policy, annuity or IRA also 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 one last thought, do speak with the person you would like to be your proxy before putting their name on the document.