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Thanksgiving traditionally includes football, family, and fowl. In my opinion, it should also include estate planning. By this I do not mean deposing your parents at the dinner table about their long-term investments or interrogating Grandma about the contents of her vault. I do encourage, however, general conversations about taking care of one’s stuff(ing). In addition to expressing thanks for all that you have in this world, take the opportunity, while your loved ones are relegated to one table, to discuss, or at least investigate, the following topics that will surely give them pumpkin to talk about.
Power of Attorney: Easy as pie to execute, a Power of Attorney or “POA” authorizes an agent to stand in your place regarding your financial affairs. The POA can be used for banking, gifting, and real estate transactions and may be effective immediately or spring into effect at a later time, for example, if and when the principal is deemed incapacitated and unable to make her own decisions. Everyone over the age of 18 should execute a POA.
Health Care Proxy and Living Will: This document appoints an agent to serve on one’s behalf for medical decisions. The Proxy can be made specific to reflect specific decisions as to organ donation and medical care. A Living Will can supplement the Proxy to detail specific instructions in the event of an end-of-life situation when terminal illness strikes and there is no chance of recovery, gourd forbid.
Last Will and Testament: The pièce de résistance of any estate plan, whose discussion should coincide with the presentation of the prized gobbler, directs how and to whom one’s estate is distributed upon death. It is imperative that the Last Will and Testament be executed in conformity with a testator’s state’s laws. Generally, a personal representative or executor is nominated to take charge upon the decedent’s passing, offer the Last Will to the probate court, establish an estate account, distribute the funds, pay the taxes, and manage any issues that arise.
Guardians for Minor Children: Anyone with minor children should include nominations for guardians in the event of the death of the parents. The nominations are included in a Last Will and Testament and sometimes individuals choose to execute Standby Guardian documents. Trusts, established under Last Wills and Testaments, should hold any assets inherited by minors throughout their minority and even beyond.
Long-Term Care Insurance and Life Insurance: Once the pumpkin martinis have hit, inquire as to assets, specifically for the payment of health care as your loved ones age. Long-term care insurance policies can provide funding for home care and facility care in the event of significant illness. In the event of death, life insurance policies pay out to named beneficiaries. This is a must-do for young parents in the event of a tragedy.
Burial Wishes: An inquiry as to arrangements upon one’s death is most palatable once the tryptophan from the turkey has settled into everyone’s system. Options include burial, cremation, and even donation to science. It is important to understand your loved one’s wishes and even make pre-arrangements, to purchase a grave-y, whenever possible. Funerals can be costly and one may wish to prep pay for a funeral to spare the expense for the family when the time comes. Sometimes a Designation of Burial Agent document is executed appointing an individual to make burial or other arrangements upon death.
Discussing end-of-life wishes and estate planning is not always easy. Do not be a turkey — gather up the courage raise these important topics, as the discussion can save thyme and resources later on.