Do you have a will?
Your will is an opportunity to direct where your assets, bank accounts, and dependents go upon your death. A will helps avoid a long probate period for your family or the state taking control of your assets. When writing a will, you’ll want to consider your assets, marital status, possibly guardianship for young children or dependents, and life insurance policies or retirement accounts. These can be considered will substitutes, as named beneficiaries will supersede those named in your will. Wills can be set up through do-it-yourself services or through an attorney. In the case of home ownership, consult an attorney – if the home was purchased in a family trust, the beneficiaries may be able to avoid probate.
Do you have a power of attorney?
By giving someone power of attorney, you are authorizing them to act on your behalf in a legal or business matter should you become unable (or unavailable) to do so. It’s important you choose someone you trust implicitly since they will have access to your personal information and finances in the event of an emergency.Power of attorney is useful when you are in the hospital and unable to make bill payments, or if you are out of the country and there’s an emergency bill to be paid back home.
Do you have a health care proxy?
This document allows you, the patient, to select someone to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to do so. Again you need to appoint someone you trust to make decisions for you if you cannot.
All three of these documents can be prepared by any lawyer, but it is recommended that you use an eldercare or estate attorney. If you can’t afford an attorney on your own, you may be able to find one through your local senior center. Senior centers are a great resource equipped with people that can answer questions about care, medical insurance, local tax credits (yes, some towns give abatements on real estate tax and water/sewer tax if a person qualifies), along with the entertainment and other amenities that they offer like flu shots, etc. If you don’t have a local senior center, you can also contact your local Attorney General’s office or Bar Association for referrals.