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New Year’s Resolutions: Stop Smoking, Lose Weight, Do Estate Planning?

The best way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”
~ Walt Disney

notebookjEstate Planning may not be found on a typical list of New Year’s resolutions, but if you have not competed your planning, then it should be. It doesn’t require willpower, it won’t take months to accomplish, and unlike some resolutions, once done, it will not pop up on your list again next year.

Now if you are thinking, I don’t need to do that because I am married and everything I have goes to my spouse; or everything I have is in a joint name; or, I don’t really own anything, so there isn’t anything to plan for…well, if these were valid reasons not to do a will (and in reality they are not!), they are still not reasons to go without a Power of Attorney or Living Will, which are essential parts of Estate Planning.

These are not reasons to have not updated your beneficiaries, or not prepared your Family Letter, or not done your Pre-Planning, or not reviewed the way your assets are titled. There is a whole lot more to Estate Planning than just having a will. And trying to save a few hundred dollars by not planning can often end up costing you or your heirs thousands of dollars.

Although having these documents was always important, in today’s world they are critical. Over the years, our firm has too often had to be a party to situations where the lack of correct documents has cost our clients time and money, put strains on their businesses, and even caused rifts in their relationships with family members.

And even if you do have these documents, you need to be sure they are not outdated. When you update your documents, be sure to contact us so that we can help to coordinate your beneficiaries with your updated wills.

If you have assets in your own name, you need a Power of Attorney. Your Power of Attorney is the person who can handle your assets if you are unable to. Appointing a Power of Attorney is not the same as adding someone else’s name to the account, which could cause a gifting issue or other serious problems. Many married couples believe that because all of their accounts are held jointly, they do not need a Power of Attorney. But IRA’s are owned individually, and if you are disabled your spouse cannot automatically act on your behalf for these accounts. And if you are the person who normally handles an account for another, such as a parent or even a spouse, there may be times that you need to act on their behalf when they are not here to sign or give consent. A Power of Attorney can help to resolve this issue, too. Remember that in accord with privacy laws, our firm is not permitted to give a child, a sibling, or even a spouse information on another individual’s account without written permission.

Once your planning is done, it will provide you with such peace of mind. But to finalize the process, you have to take one more step: introduce your Power of Attorney and your Executor to your Financial Advisor. If you are a client of our firm, we will ask you for a copy of your Power of Attorney. We will want to be sure that we can help if the time comes when you need our help the most. And we want to meet these important people before that time arises. That way they will be comfortable with us, and we will not need to get to know each other during a crisis.

So now as you are writing that list of resolutions, just remember…Stop smoking. Great! Lose weight. Good! Do your Estate Planning. Absolutely!