Saturday, September 10, 2011

13 Steps To Maintain Your Independence, Protect Your Assets and Protect Your Family

By:  Susan M. Graham, Certified Elder Law Attorney

Do you want to protect your independence, assets and your family?  There are many steps you can take to make it easier for you and your loved ones when the bad days happen:  death or becoming unable to handle your affairs due to illness.  I encourage you to consult with an attorney to discuss many of the following topics to see which will best fit your needs.

1.  Health Power of Attorney.  Signing this document permits the people you rely upon to talk with your doctor when you can't.

2.  Living Will.  If your death is near, you have 3 choices for your end-of-life medical care:  (a) use all the fancy machines to keep you going, (b) have nutrition and hydration with tubes, or (c) "let me go."  If you fail to sign a "Living Will," the legal and medical rules require that you be on "tubes" at a minimum.

3.  Last Will and Testament.  This document declares how you want your property distributed when you die, and if you have minor children, who will be the guardian.  After a death, the Will is filed with the Probate Court to start the administration of the decedent's estate.

4.  Revocable Trust.  This is an other way to arrange for the management of your assets should you be unable to do so due to illness or when you die.  This document usually allows you to avoid probate or going to court.

5.  Financial Power of Attorney.  This document identifies those people whom you selected to handle some of your finances if you are unable to do so because of illness.

6.  Funeral Arrangements.  Pre-planning your funeral is a gift to your family.  Making your arrangements will assure that you will have what you want and save your family from the worry and burden of such decisions at an impossible time.

7.  Pet Care.  You have the opportunity to write down who you want to be the caretaker for your pet when you are gone, recovering from an illness, or in a rest home.

8.  Beneficiary Designation.  Make certain that the beneficiary designation on all life insurance, annuities and retirement accounts, such as IRAs and a 401(k), match your current estate plan.

9.  Professional Advisors.  List those professionals who know about your affairs.  Include your attorney, accountant, insurance persons, doctors, dentist and others you rely on.

10.  Important Records.  Where do you keep your papers?  Who knows where to look?  Do they have a key, or can they get into your safe deposit box?

11.  Family Information.  Do you have a list of contact information for the family and friends who are important to you?  This information is helpful in an emergency.

12.  The Key to Your House.  Who has one?  Do they know whom to contact in an emergency?

13.  Driving Instructions.  If the time comes that it is no longer safe for you to drive, you can arrange ahead of time how to give up your car and provide for alternate transportation.

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