The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of making decisions that will make it easier for others to carry out your wishes should you become physically or mentally capacitated or when you pass on. At the very least, you should assign someone you trust to serve as your health care proxy should you no longer be able to make healthcare decisions on your own. You should also formalize a living will that documents whether you want or don’t want life-prolonging treatments at the end of your life. Also consider assigning durable financial power of attorney to someone you trust to manage your finances if you’re no longer able to.
To help ensure that you, rather than a court, determines how your assets in your estate will be distributed to your heirs, make sure that you’ve completed a will that states your wishes and names an executor. Review and update your will if circumstances change. To avoid probate, consider setting up a revocable living trust and funding it with high-value assets such as your home and taxable investment accounts. You’ll need to retitle these assets in the name of the Trust. You won’t, however, need to retitle your IRA accounts and life insurance policies, since these assets will go directly to your assigned beneficiaries.
It’s highly recommended that you hire an experienced attorney to legally formalize these decisions. Since attorneys are expensive, consider working with a fee-only financial planner who can turn your decisions into an estate planning action plan at a relatively lower cost. You can then give this plan to your attorney to execute the legal requirements.
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