No one wants to think about what happens when their health declines or what their loved ones will do after they die. But planning for these events while you’re still healthy can prevent many unwanted consequences.
Making decisions now over how to manage your estate and the person overseeing it according to your wishes can create peace of mind. It’s also advisable to communicate these decisions in advance to those closest to you.
Estate planning priorities
An estate plan is much more than just a will listing what beneficiaries will receive. Here are four areas to focus on:
Health care wishes: Communicate your medical treatment preferences before a crisis leaves you unable to make those decisions. These elements include:
- Health care proxy
- Living will
- Advance directive
- Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment or POLST
- Organ Donations
- Interment plans
Selecting an executor: The person managing your estate doesn’t have to be a lawyer, but if you choose a family member or close friend, make sure they understand their responsibilities. It’s a good idea to introduce them to your estate administration attorney.
Protect finances: Whether your estate is large or modest, it may be beneficial to communicate your plans to heirs, which can alleviate anger or hurt feelings later on. It’s also advisable to take these three steps:
- Assign a financial power of attorney
- Discuss details of a trust with beneficiaries
- Minimize tax consequences for heirs
Create a “need-to-know” file: If you are uncomfortable discussing some details with family members, consider a video to explain your decisions when you die. In the meantime, put together a comprehensive end-of-life file containing:
- Copies of all estate planning documents
- Life insurance policies
- Contact information for doctors, lawyers, financial advisers and other professionals
- Copies of banking, investment, mortgage and loan statements
- A list of credit card numbers and PINs
- User names, passwords and IDs for online accounts, including financial and social media
Do the heavy lifting now
While no one wants to think about their own mortality, putting a complete estate plan in place while you’re still healthy not only creates peace of mind for you but helps your family avoid confusion and worry over honoring your wishes.