Now is the perfect time to dig into your files and see whether you need to add or update documents in your estate planning portfolio.
Regardless of age or asset levels, everyone should have a few basic documents prepared. Here's a quick list of what to consider:
Financial Power of Attorney
If you were hospitalized for an accident or illness tomorrow, what would happen with your finances? If your bills go unpaid, your credit could be ruined in a hurry. We can create a power of attorney to allow someone to access funds and pay bills while you are incapacitated, traveling, or otherwise unprepared to handle matters. A power of attorney can be set up to allow a trusted individual to “step into your shoes” at any time, or to only take effect if you become incapacitated and incapable of handling your affairs yourself.
Healthcare Power of Attorney/Healthcare Proxy
It is also wise to have a healthcare power of attorney that authorizes a family member or friend to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are not able to make or communicate decisions on your own. Your document can include instructions about the care you want to receive, making matters much easier on the family. Our office will also provide a form to give to your doctors summarizing your wishes.
Federal laws severely limit your family's ability to access your medical information unless you have prepared an authorization form in advance. HIPAA authorization allows someone you trust to talk with doctors and handle medical billing and insurance issues.
Advanced Directive/Living Will
In this type of document, you can provide instructions to healthcare providers about the type of care you want to receive if you are suffering from a terminal condition and unable to communicate your wishes. This document not only puts you in control of your situation but also takes the burden of a difficult decision off a family member or loved one.
Last Will and Testament
You should have a will specifying who you want to pay bills and settle your estate when you pass and how you want proceeds distributed. If you don't have a will, the court will choose a representative and your assets will pass according to succession laws that you may not agree with. Even if you have a trust or most of your property will pass through other means, it is always a good idea to have a will. Your will could also name guardians for minor children, set up trusts to provide care for dependents, and accomplish other purposes.
This might be the right time to talk with your estate planning attorney about setting up a revocable living trust to avoid probate or a trust that can be used to conserve assets in anticipation of long-term care needs. Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to be super rich to have a trust. In fact, the time and money saved by avoiding drawn-out probate proceedings can benefit a family of any size—and trusts can do that and more. Tennessee law provides for a wide variety of trusts that can accomplish many objectives, including protecting your children's inheritance or reducing tax liability.
Are Your Estate Planning Documents Ready for 2022?
Even if you think your estate plan is complete, it may be time to update your documents to make sure they comply with current legal requirements and still meet your needs. Schedule an estate planning tune-up appointment with your estate planning attorney so that you'll be ready for 2022 and beyond.