This Memorial Day, one of my clients was acknowledging a loss of her own (in addition to the loss of many brave men and women who fight for our country). It marked the 20th anniversary of the loss of her brother while away on vacation on the Colorado River in Laughlin, Nev. Despite the years, any loss like this is tough. She said what made it a tiny bit easier was that her brother, age 25, had done a good job of having his affairs in order even at such a young age. It was not as big of a struggle as it could have been had he not been organized.
I guarantee while you are packing up this summer for your vacation and/or for your kids to travel and then go off to school, estate planning is not even a blip on your mental radar. But at risk is making sure your wishes are known and honored if you should become ill or pass away.
1. Start with the basics: Your Will
In Arizona, if you own personal property (including cars, jewelry, furniture, heirlooms, etc.) that is worth more than $75,000 – or real estate with more than $100,000 in equity, your estate will go to probate without a will. In addition, be sure to include guardian designations for children and pets otherwise the state may remove them and hold them until such time as they can sort out where they legally belong. Check your beneficiary designations (for bank accounts, 401K, brokerage accounts, etc.) to make sure that they are in keeping with your wishes. Learn more about what happens if you don’t have a will … HERE and why you probably don’t HERE.
2. Medical Power of Attorney/Living Will/Advanced Directive
A Medical Power of Attorney means that you can designate someone to be his or her healthcare representative should they become severely ill or incapacitated. (Be sure that if you are preparing this for a student that is attending collage out of state, that the documents are drawn up by a professional in that state.) The Medical Power of Attorney should also be partnered with a Living Will, which applies if you become terminally ill or incapacitated. For students just turning 18, it would be wise that they include their parents on their HIPPAA Releases as well.
5. Durable Power of Attorney
Similarly, a Durable Power of Attorney does the same as the above directive for everything non-healthcare related. There are differences in types of POAs, so be sure your attorney explains the difference and which one makes sense for you. This is especially important to include for students who just turn 18 because it gives parents some say in financial matters. Learn more about what students should have HERE.
For more information about these and other Estate Planning issues, please contact Marcus Seiter.