The dawn of a New Year brings all sorts of aspirations and resolutions – everything from losing weight and eating healthy to volunteering and organizing closets. All of those are important goals and worth your time and attention in 2017.
But there’s one item you need to put on your New Year’s checklist that will last much longer than a clean closet – getting your legal life in order.
For many people, tasks like creating a will or a power of attorney rank somewhere near getting a root canal. They aren’t the most exciting of tasks, but they can be some of the most important when you pause to think about what happens when you don’t have your legal affairs buttoned up.
In 2017, resolve to have these three documents created and filed in a safe place. Someday you’ll look back on this year and be thankful you devoted some time to this important job.
1. Last will and testament.
A 2015 online survey by Harris Poll and commissioned by Rocket Lawyer found 70 percent of Americans aged 45-54 do not have a will, and 54 percent of Americans aged 55-64 do not have a will.
If you care about your family, it’s vital to have a will. Without one, you leave your assets in the hands of the state. It’s a significant burden to your family members who could spend months or even years in a legal dispute over who gets what.
For parents of young children, a will is even more critical. In a will, parents can dictate who will be the guardian of their children in the event something happens to both of them. Again, without this document, a court will appoint a guardian, and it may or may not be who the parents would want.
2. A living will/health care power of attorney.
Many people have thought about the kind of medical treatment they want and don’t want should they wind up in a serious medical situation. In a living will, you can outline for your doctor if you do not want to receive certain treatments.
But if you’re badly injured, unconscious or in a coma, you won’t be able to communicate your wishes. Create a health care power of attorney to appoint someone you trust to tell the doctor your health care directives.
If you don’t have these documents prepared in advance, certain relatives designated by state law could make decisions for you. The court or a court-appointed representative may also be the one making health care decisions on your behalf. Find out more information about these documents from the state Office on Aging.
3. Financial power of attorney.
This document is also critical in the event you’re incapacitated and unable to make decisions. Select someone who can act on your behalf to sign tax documents, access bank accounts or manage other financial assets such as investments or real estate holdings. You can customize the document to give your selected agent as much or as little financial power as needed.
Without these three important documents, you’re leaving your decisions up to a court. And you’ve put your loved ones in a difficult situation. It doesn’t take long to create these documents. You can consult an attorney for assistance, and there are even some online resources that allow you to do most of the work yourself.
Once you have these documents complete, make sure you have stored them in a safe place and that at least one other person knows where they are and can access them. You may also keep a copy with your attorney.
Start the New Year off with the peace of mind of knowing you’ve taken steps to prepare for the future.
Stuhr Funeral Home, a trusted name in funeral service for more than 150 years, has the resources and expertise to help you plan ahead for end of life decisions. Together, they’re dedicated to providing the best and most professional care to help you take care of all the details that comes with pre-arranging services for yourself or a loved one.
For more information, stop by one of our locations in the area or call (843) 723-2524.