(2006)With the holidays approaching and the opportunity for most of us to be with family members it would be a good time to review a number of your legal documents and related issues.
1. Health Care Directives. This document includes a “Health Care Power of Attorney” in which you appoint someone to assume responsibility for your medical and other care needs if you are unable to do so. It is important to pick individuals with whom you can easily communicate and who would agree with the decisions that you make. In the “Living Will” portion of the document you state what, if anything, you would want done if you were permanently unconscious or terminally ill with no realistic hope of recovery.
2. Power of Attorney. This separate document is where you can designate individuals who will handle your financial affairs if you become unable to do so. Select people whom you trust and who have good financial skills. This document can give great power (almost like a loaded gun); naming someone you trust is a key element to success.
3. Your Estate Plan. This is where, using a Will, you state what will happen to what you own when you die and who will handle your affairs. In addition, it is important to review and update your beneficiary designated assets, such as life insurance, IRAs, etc., to help ensure that these are the correct individuals or institutions you wish to receive these assets.
4. Your Long Term Care Plans. Have you decided or discussed with loved ones, that if you needed long term care, how you want to receive it, who would provide it, and how will you pay for it?
5. The Inevitable. Decide the type of funeral and burial arrangements you would want so your family will not be left in the middle of a crisis trying to determine how this can best be done and what your wishes would have been.
While these are not typical holiday discussion topics, they should become part of your ongoing planning, especially when you have the opportunity to talk with individuals whom you may not see on a routine basis and who form part of your potential support system.