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By Suze Orman
I am well aware that a will, living revocable trust, financial power of attorney and health care proxy are not going to make anyone’s “Top 10 Holiday Gifts” list. But I can guarantee you that having these important estate documents set up will be one of the most profound gifts you can give your loved ones.
These four critical documents are the equivalent of the biggest, most intense hug you can give your family. They create the roadmap and the protections that will make it easiest for your family to care for you, if there comes a time when you need help managing your health and finances. And when you pass away, a will and trust will lift so much of the administrative burden from your loved ones, as both documents spell out what you want to happen.
Is it too depressing to think about a time when you might be too ill to manage things for yourself? Well my friend, I am going to challenge you a bit. Will you just, for a moment, contemplate what would happen if you did nothing today, and then you ended up needing help managing your finances tomorrow. Imagine that you can’t speak up and tell doctors what level of care you want and don’t want.
Without these documents in place, your loved ones are going to have a very difficult time stepping in to handle things for you. Isn’t that the most depressing possibility to consider? If you truly love your family, you will make it a priority to draw up your essential estate planning documents right now.
Here are a few items I want you to get squared away this holiday season.
Also known as a health care proxy, this document appoints someone to step up and be your voice with medical caregivers if there ever comes a time when you can’t clearly express your wishes. That could be a result of a severe illness, or dementia. You also want to be sure to fill out an advance directive that spells out what level of care you want in certain situations. The advance directive is the roadmap your health care proxy will follow.
The main reason to have a power of attorney for financial matters is so that if you become incapacitated, someone can access your IRA funds and other monetary assets to pay for your care. The financial power of attorney is the legal document that will enable the person you name to step in and take care of your affairs while you are alive. Once you have passed away, the financial power of attorney becomes null and void.
This document ensures the seamless transfer of your assets when you pass away, without the need for court involvement. If you die with only a will spelling out your inheritance wishes, your beneficiaries may be required to go through the probate court process. And that will take time and money. With a living revocable trust, you will designate someone as your successor trustee. A trust is also so important to establish early on in your life. In the event you become incapacitated and can’t handle your affairs, your successor trustee can step in and manage the assets in your trust for you.
Even with a trust, you also want to have a will to handle any assets that you didn’t formally place in your trust. For parents with minor children, a will is vitally important as it is the document that establishes guardianship for young children.
Beyond being a gift for your loved ones, these essential documents will also be a gift to yourself. Knowing you have taken the steps to protect yourself from the “what ifs” that can strike at any time, and having eased the burden for your loved ones in the future is going to feel great. So, what are you waiting for?
Take the first step and learn even more by watching this video I created, because I really am on a mission to have every person protected– and I know getting these documents in order will do just that for you. So, what are you waiting for?
Looking for more tips on protecting your loved ones? Check out these blogs:
Suze Orman is the author of 10 consecutive New York Times bestsellers, a two-time Emmy award winner, and your go-to for honest answers on everything finance. She is the most recognized personal finance expert in America today and host of the Women & Money (and Everyone Smart Enough to Listen) podcast. Suze is excited to be a contributor for Money Mentor.
Suze and Alliant teamed up to help Alliant members make the most of their life by teaching them to make the most of their money. New Alliant members are also eligible for The Ultimate Opportunity Savings Account.
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