2/18/2015

Death and Taxes or How to Plan for the Eventual With a Minimum of Fuss

Ben Franklin is credited with the quote, "In this world nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes." Cheery thoughts from one of our more colorful founding fathers. In this season of tax preparation--the gathering of documents and frustration of deciphering forms and convoluted formulas, preparing our taxes forces us to take a look at our finances for the past year. In that same vein, it's also a good to time to take stock of our preparations for when we are no longer around to work on those tax forms.

I worked as a paralegal for many years, handling the probate of estates both great and small. Preparation is the key for your family to navigate those choppy waters. Emotions run high and even the most mild-mannered can become unreasonable, argumentative, and yes, surprisingly greedy.  Take some of the drama out of this inevitable situation by gifting your family with a well thought out plan. Here's how to accomplish that dreaded task.

1.  Have a Last Will and Testament. No arguments that you don't have enough money to warrant one and it'll cost too much. Nonsense. It was my experience that more fights ensued over estates of $10,000 or less because there was no will. Everyone needs one. Young or old. Male or female. Married or single. If you have minor children, you certainly need one to appoint guardians for your offspring. You don't want a messy family fight in the funeral home parking lot over who gets the kids. And if you think that couldn't possible happen, think again. It does happen in even the most delightful of families.  An attorney is highly recommended for the drawing of a will, but there are online sites that can draft the document for a low fee if your estate is truly simple. Wills should be reviewed and updated as necessary. Your attorney can retain the original for safekeeping or you can keep it in a fireproof safe. A safe deposit box is not usually the best repository since it requires a court order to open upon your demise.

2.  Have a Durable Power of Attorney. A power of attorney enables your designee to handle a myriad of business transactions, from paying bills to selling real property. You can choose exactly what your POA can or cannot do. Usually spouses designate spouses and you may have an alternate or co-POAs. Should you be incapacitated, this document can be worth its weight in gold to handle day-to-day life. If you cease breathing, the POA becomes worthless and your will kicks in.

3. Health Proxy and Living Will. The marvelous medical technology we enjoy has created some complex end-of-life scenarios that require our attention. Who can make healthcare decisions if you should be unconscious or otherwise unable to make them yourself? What kind of end-of-life care do you really want? Feeding tube? Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order? No extraordinary measures? Every extraordinary measure?  Don't place a spouse or family member in a situation to try and guess what you would want. Healthcare providers want specific instructions--legal documents. Have the conversation ahead of time. It's not exactly a fun topic, but necessary. Once again an attorney is your best source for the drawing of these documents. They will also need review and updates as necessary.

4.  Online Accounts and Passwords.  Our lives are woven into the virtual fabric of online business accounts for banking, insurance, investing, memberships, and social media.  Usually one spouse handles the finances, while the other may blissfully ignore how to sign in to the bank account to pay bills or transfer funds. This can be one of the most frustrating and scary processes for a spouse or loved one who must now try and figure out how to gain access when they have no idea where to start.  First, keep a list of all your online accounts, including Face Book with the passwords. If you keep the list in a spreadsheet, print it off and update when you change passwords. A password document is highly sensitive, and I recommend that you store it on a flash drive rather than the hard drive of your computer. Second, sit down with your beloved spouse and show them how to log on to the various sites, pay a bill, etc. if he or she isn't familiar with the process.

5.  Life Insurance and Sundry Documents.  Corral any life insurance policies, beneficiary information for pensions and annuities in a file for easy access. Do the same with deeds, mortgages, car titles, loan papers--you get the idea. Make it easy for you and your family to locate important documents.

You're absolutely correct that it'll cost some time and money to put your affairs in order.  Consider it quality time and money well spent that expresses your love and concern for your family. A clear estate plan will eliminate a plethora of possible problems. And, it's also a good idea to talk about ... ahem ... those final arrangements.  Even Yogi Berra had that uncomfortable conversation with his wife.


“Yogi, you are from St. Louis, we live in New Jersey, and you played ball in New York. If you go before I do, where would you like me to have you buried?” -Carmen Berra, Yogi’s wife. “Surprise me.” – Yogi



2 comments:

anne jerica Go said...

Great article. An eye opener for me. Will definitely consider these. BTW, if anyone needs to fill out a “Health Care Proxy Form ”, I found a blank fillable form here:http://pdf.ac/7KKh6I. This site PDFfiller also has some tutorials on how to fill it out and a few related legal documents that you might find useful.

Laurinda Wallace said...

Glad you found it helpful. Thanks for stopping by.

Positively encouraging

2/18/2015

Death and Taxes or How to Plan for the Eventual With a Minimum of Fuss

Ben Franklin is credited with the quote, "In this world nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes." Cheery thoughts from one of our more colorful founding fathers. In this season of tax preparation--the gathering of documents and frustration of deciphering forms and convoluted formulas, preparing our taxes forces us to take a look at our finances for the past year. In that same vein, it's also a good to time to take stock of our preparations for when we are no longer around to work on those tax forms.

I worked as a paralegal for many years, handling the probate of estates both great and small. Preparation is the key for your family to navigate those choppy waters. Emotions run high and even the most mild-mannered can become unreasonable, argumentative, and yes, surprisingly greedy.  Take some of the drama out of this inevitable situation by gifting your family with a well thought out plan. Here's how to accomplish that dreaded task.

1.  Have a Last Will and Testament. No arguments that you don't have enough money to warrant one and it'll cost too much. Nonsense. It was my experience that more fights ensued over estates of $10,000 or less because there was no will. Everyone needs one. Young or old. Male or female. Married or single. If you have minor children, you certainly need one to appoint guardians for your offspring. You don't want a messy family fight in the funeral home parking lot over who gets the kids. And if you think that couldn't possible happen, think again. It does happen in even the most delightful of families.  An attorney is highly recommended for the drawing of a will, but there are online sites that can draft the document for a low fee if your estate is truly simple. Wills should be reviewed and updated as necessary. Your attorney can retain the original for safekeeping or you can keep it in a fireproof safe. A safe deposit box is not usually the best repository since it requires a court order to open upon your demise.

2.  Have a Durable Power of Attorney. A power of attorney enables your designee to handle a myriad of business transactions, from paying bills to selling real property. You can choose exactly what your POA can or cannot do. Usually spouses designate spouses and you may have an alternate or co-POAs. Should you be incapacitated, this document can be worth its weight in gold to handle day-to-day life. If you cease breathing, the POA becomes worthless and your will kicks in.

3. Health Proxy and Living Will. The marvelous medical technology we enjoy has created some complex end-of-life scenarios that require our attention. Who can make healthcare decisions if you should be unconscious or otherwise unable to make them yourself? What kind of end-of-life care do you really want? Feeding tube? Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order? No extraordinary measures? Every extraordinary measure?  Don't place a spouse or family member in a situation to try and guess what you would want. Healthcare providers want specific instructions--legal documents. Have the conversation ahead of time. It's not exactly a fun topic, but necessary. Once again an attorney is your best source for the drawing of these documents. They will also need review and updates as necessary.

4.  Online Accounts and Passwords.  Our lives are woven into the virtual fabric of online business accounts for banking, insurance, investing, memberships, and social media.  Usually one spouse handles the finances, while the other may blissfully ignore how to sign in to the bank account to pay bills or transfer funds. This can be one of the most frustrating and scary processes for a spouse or loved one who must now try and figure out how to gain access when they have no idea where to start.  First, keep a list of all your online accounts, including Face Book with the passwords. If you keep the list in a spreadsheet, print it off and update when you change passwords. A password document is highly sensitive, and I recommend that you store it on a flash drive rather than the hard drive of your computer. Second, sit down with your beloved spouse and show them how to log on to the various sites, pay a bill, etc. if he or she isn't familiar with the process.

5.  Life Insurance and Sundry Documents.  Corral any life insurance policies, beneficiary information for pensions and annuities in a file for easy access. Do the same with deeds, mortgages, car titles, loan papers--you get the idea. Make it easy for you and your family to locate important documents.

You're absolutely correct that it'll cost some time and money to put your affairs in order.  Consider it quality time and money well spent that expresses your love and concern for your family. A clear estate plan will eliminate a plethora of possible problems. And, it's also a good idea to talk about ... ahem ... those final arrangements.  Even Yogi Berra had that uncomfortable conversation with his wife.


“Yogi, you are from St. Louis, we live in New Jersey, and you played ball in New York. If you go before I do, where would you like me to have you buried?” -Carmen Berra, Yogi’s wife. “Surprise me.” – Yogi



2 comments:

anne jerica Go said...

Great article. An eye opener for me. Will definitely consider these. BTW, if anyone needs to fill out a “Health Care Proxy Form ”, I found a blank fillable form here:http://pdf.ac/7KKh6I. This site PDFfiller also has some tutorials on how to fill it out and a few related legal documents that you might find useful.

Laurinda Wallace said...

Glad you found it helpful. Thanks for stopping by.