There’s something about spending the holiday season with friends and loved ones that make you reflect on what matters most (hint: it’s probably the aforementioned people). If you’ve been thinking about your family and friends this season, you’re in luck; the time for new beginnings is just around the corner. With the New Year on the horizon, now is the perfect time to make resolutions to help you help and protect them. Here are the best estate planning resolutions you can make now (and, hopefully, keep in 2017!).
Resolve to have the conversations you need to (even if they’re tough)
An estate plan doesn’t just happen (wouldn’t it be nice if it did)? A good, thorough estate plan requires you to have some uncomfortable – maybe even painful – conversations with the people you love most. That’s because estate planning requires you to make some difficult decisions about what may happen when you or your family pass away or become incapable of making your own legal and medical decisions. If certain issues are particularly emotionally charged, like those concerning your legal, financial and medical care, it’s even more important you don’t avoid talking about them. That’s because, if there are a lot of emotions or ill-feelings now, imagine how those might escalate when you become ill or unable to care for yourself. Now is the time to make sure your loved ones understand your wishes explicitly. This will not only ensure these wishes are respected but can also help alleviate contention among relatives who may have differing opinions on the matter.
Resolve to update an existing estate plan
If you already have an estate plan, you’re not off the hook; it’s imperative to ensure your plan is always current. This is particularly important if there have been any significant changes in your life. These changes could include marriage, death in the family, divorce, or even children who have become adults since you last updated your estate plan. Any major life events can have a serious impact on your estate, so it’s imperative that you keep it current. Make 2017 the year you ensure everything is up to date.
Resolve to take the important decisions – now
You may know exactly what you want to happen when you pass away, but sometimes it’s more difficult to make estate planning decisions that affect you while you’re still alive. These serious issues need to be determined well in advance to avoid conflict within the family. These include what medical measures you’d like taken (or not taken) to extend your life when you are unable to communicate those wishes. Many of these important decisions include important documents you’ll want to have current:
- Living Will: This is a document that outlines the medical care and treatment you want or do not want if there is no realistic hope of significant recovery from your condition.
- Healthcare Power of Attorney: This document allows whoever you designate – a spouse, child, parent, friend or other loved one – to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to do so yourself.
- Release of Information: This document tells healthcare providers they can legally share your medical records with those people you specifically designate.
- Durable Power of Attorney: This document allows whoever you designate (this could be a loved one or an authorized agent, like an attorney) to take control of your financial and legal matters.
Resolve to consider your life insurance plan
Whether or not you currently have a life insurance plan, resolve this year to review your family’s needs. Do you have enough to take care of your family once you are gone? A life insurance plan should – at minimum – cover your health care and funeral costs. If you have young children, you may also want to consider their ongoing care as well as educational needs. On the other hand, if you have no minor dependents and substantial retirement funds, you may have more life insurance than you need. Now is the time to review your plan.