Now is the time to handle those details you have overlooked.
There may be a number of estate planning details that you have not addressed in previous years. This year is a good year to get it done, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, in “As a new year closes in, resolve to get those pesky estate details resolved.”
Health Care Plans. If you've got health care issues or a chronic condition, get your advance directive for health care done. The name of the document varies by state, but whether you call it a living will or an advance directive, work with your estate planning attorney to create a document that conveys your wishes for what happens if and when you are not able to communicate them. That means your end of life wishes, so if you end up in the hospital's intensive care unit your family or health care providers aren't making decisions based on what they think you might have wanted, but what you have actually declared that you want.
Power of Attorney for Financial Affairs. You're not giving up any power or control over your finances in having this created. Instead, you are preparing to allow someone to act on your behalf for financial matters if for some reason you are unable to. Let's say you become injured in an accident and are in the hospital for an extended period of time. How will your bills be paid? Who will pay the mortgage?
For both of these documents, talk with the people you want to name first, and make sure you are both clear on their responsibilities. Have at least two backups, just in case.
A will and if appropriate, trusts. If you don't have a will or a trust, why not? Without a will, the state's laws determine who will receive your assets. Your family may not like the decisions, but it will be too late. Speak with an experienced estate planning attorney to get your will and other documents properly prepared.
Check how your assets are titled. Are they in your name only, jointly titled, etc.? If you have trusts, have you retitled your assets to conform to the trusts? If you have beneficiaries on certain accounts, like life insurance policies and 401(k)s, when was the last time you reviewed your beneficiaries? Don't be like the doctor who did everything but check beneficiaries. His ex-wife was very happy to receive a large 401(k) account, and there was no recourse for his second wife of 30 years.
Make a list so assets can be located. To finalize these details, you'll need a list of assets, account numbers and what financial institution holds them. The information will need to be gathered and then organized in a way so key people in your life—your spouse, children, etc.—can find them. Some people put them on a spreadsheet on their home computer, but if your executor does not have a password, they won't be able to access them. If they are in a safe deposit box that only has your name, they won't be accessible.
An estate planning attorney can advise you in creating an estate plan that fits your unique circumstances.
Reference: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Dec. 24, 2018) “As a new year closes in, resolve to get those pesky estate details resolved”