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Estate Planning Is Essential While Still Competent

BOSTON (CBS) - Everyone needs estate planning and you need to do it while Dad is competent. This is a tough subject to talk about for it always involves someone dying! If you have siblings try to meet with them and discuss the matter. Explain to them why it is important that Dad gets his things in order.

Start with some casual comments. Mention to Dad that you heard this financial planner on the radio and you realize you need to get your stuff in order. What has he done to get his affairs in order? If he says "nothing", offer to make the appointment with an attorney and go with him if he needs moral support. If he says "yes", ask where the documents are kept?

A will is a simple document that allows you to give your assets, the stuff you own, to your heirs, the people you want to get your stuff when you die. Easy to do and does not have to be expensive. If there is a complicated situation, such as second or third marriages with kids from each marriage or lots of money involved, then you need to do some fancy estate planning.

A living trust you use while you are alive and upon your death your assets are distributed to your beneficiaries by your trustee and bypasses the probate process. This makes it very easy on the heirs and avoids any publicity.

Naming someone as the beneficiary of your IRA, insurance policy, annuity or retirement plan also bypasses the probate process.

A Durable Power of Attorney is a legal document used while one is still alive. It allows you to choose someone to act as your attorney-in-fact to make decisions legally or financially if you are not able to do so. This is a very important document when dealing with elders so that you can get their bills paid or help them with their finances or legal matters.

A Medical Directive, allows you to tell the medical community how you want to be treated if you cannot make decisions for yourself. Here in Massachusetts it is a Health Care Proxy, which allows you choose someone to make those decisions for you. It is important to choose someone who understands how you feel about death and dying.

One more thing: When choosing someone to act as your power of attorney or health care proxy choose one person with a second as an alternate. If you have two children do not put both their names on the document. If they fought about the jellybeans in their Easter basket they will fight about your health care.

And one last thought, do ask the person you would like to be your proxy before putting their name on the document.


You can hear Dee Lee's expert financial advice on WBZ NewsRadio 1030 each weekday at 1:55 p.m., 3:55 p.m., and 7:55 p.m.

Subscribe to Dee's Money Matters newsletter here.

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