“Destiny is no matter of chance. It is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for; it is a thing to be achieved.” — William Jennings Bryan.
We often take more time planning our vacations than we do our future. While it may not be a fun topic of discussion, it is important to have plans in place should you become physically or mentally unable to manage your own affairs. Doing so in advance ensures that you can provide input on how things should be handled in the future.
Statistics show that as we age, the likelihood that we will require help in making decisions increases. While friends or family may be able to help with things like buying groceries and paying bills, advance planning is required for more complex tasks such as selling real estate, gifting assets to your children or making critical medical decisions.
Without a plan in place decisions will be made for you. Your decisions may even be appointed in a guardianship proceeding; a court-supervised process that names an individual or entity to manage the affairs of an incapacitated person.
Most people prefer to be part of the decision-making process, but this can only happen with proper planning. Depending on the needs of the individual or family, incapacity planning may include an array of legal documents and planning techniques such as an advanced healthcare directive, living will, property powers of attorney and health care powers of attorney.
Part of the process of partnering with a Certified Trust Financial Advisor is to review your current will, the general power of attorney, and to reaffirm all beneficiary designations. Beneficiaries should be reviewed periodically for all bank accounts, retirement plans, pension plans, life insurance policies and annuities. You will also determine whether or not accounts should have a “payable on death” designation meaning that funds would not be subject to probate. Instead, funds would pass directly to the named beneficiary providing quicker access to liquid assets by avoiding the perusal of the court. No one wants their loved ones to have to wrangle through the courts while dealing with loss, yet if the funds are not in a trust and do not have the payable on death or beneficiary designations, the estate must be probated through the court, which can take several months.
While it might not be pleasant to think about nor discuss with family members, there are major ramifications of not having a will. If you die without a will, the court will probate your estate which means the court may decide how your estate should be distributed; also adding expenses to the estate.
It may also be worthwhile to consider a trust which creates a legal entity that holds your assets for you, eliminating the need for probate when you die. One type of trust, a revocable living trust, helps to prepare for possible incapacity as you are able to appoint a disability trustee. This individual or corporate trustee would be empowered to administer the trust should you become incapacitated at some point in time.
After planning and creating the necessary documents, determine a central, safe place to store important papers such as wills, trusts, powers of attorney, etc. Often in times of a family emergency or a tragic event, we become overwhelmed. The stress and confusion may lessen our ability to think clearly or remember where our items may be. Determining a location in advance and sharing it with those closest to you will help unburden the state of affairs.
To avoid undue stress on your family and loved ones in the event of unforeseen circumstances, start the planning process early. Partner with a Certified Trust Financial Advisor to make the process as smooth as possible considering the sensitive nature of the conversation — your loved ones will appreciate it later.