Are You Prepared?: How To Get Your Affairs in Order
By: Rosemarie Tamunday Casanova
We all like to think nothing bad will ever happen to us or our older loved ones. Unfortunately, as we age, our chances for debilitating medical problems increase. No matter how healthy you are or how young you feel, you could suffer from a stroke or heart attack tomorrow, leaving you completely incapacitated.
If such a horrible thing were to happen, would you be confident that your affairs are in order? Will your family and loved ones know where your important documents are and how you want your finances handled? Will they be able to care for you, long-term?
The fact of the matter is that we simply never know what the future holds. However, you can alleviate some of the stress in a worst-case scenario by ensuring that all of your affairs are in order now. Don’t wait for tragedy to strike. Be prepared.
How To Get Your Affairs in Order
Collect Your Papers
If someone had to find all of your important papers and legal documents right now, without any help or guidance from you, would they be able to? Unless you’re an exceptionally organized and fastidious, the answer is probably a resounding “no.”
But when an emergency happens, these documents are going to be crucial to getting things in order. That’s why you need to make sure to collect or file all of your papers in one place. And always make sure to make copies of these papers and keep them updated.
According to the National Institute on Aging, some important papers to include are:
- Birth Certificate
- Social Security Card
- Marriage Certificate
- Divorce, Citizenship, or Adoption Papers (if applicable)
- Contact Information for family, friends, doctors, lawyers, and financial advisors
Keeping your financial records in one place is also very important. Make sure you have papers documenting:
- Your Income and Assets
- Stocks and Bonds
- Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid information
- All Insurance Policies
- All Bank Accounts
- Mortgages and Debts, including Property tax
- Deeds to any Property
- Car Title and Registration
- Safe Deposit Box Information and Key
Of course, organizing your papers does no good if no one but you knows where they are. Entrust this important information with family or loved ones (or a lawyer) that you trust implicitly. You don’t need to tell them exactly what papers you have, only where they are in case of an emergency.
Prepare A Will or Advanced Directives
Possibly the most important legal or financial document that you can prepare is a will or some type of advanced directive. Depending on your financial, familial, and healthy situation, you and your lawyer can decide which type of legal document will best help handle your future affairs. Laws vary by state, so make sure you do your research and abide by state regulations.
You may wish to create one or more of the following documents while getting your affairs in order:
- A Will or Trust: These documents ensure that, in the case of your death, your money and property are distributed according to your desires. If you die without a will, your belongings and assets become subject to your state’s intestacy laws. Most likely, you and the state will not have the same ideas about how your property should be taken care of.
- An Advanced Directive: If you become very ill and are no longer capable of making decisions about your life and health care, an advanced directive outlines how you wish to be taken care of. Advanced directives include:
- A Living Will: if you become too ill to communicate how or if you would like to receive in home senior care, a Living Will helps your family make decisions based on your wishes. This includes decisions around resuscitation, use of breathing machines or feeding tubes, and the types of medicine or medical procedures you will undergo.
Choose A Power of Attorney
When you grant someone the Power of Attorney, you give them legal permission to organize and execute decisions for you. Depending on the type of Power of Attorney, they will have control over different aspects of your life (financial, legal, etc) with varying degrees of power and longevity. This is a very important thing to do when getting your affairs in order because it ensures that someone you trust is making important decisions for you.
There are two main types of Power of Attorney: medical and financial. A medical or healthcare Power of Attorney allows a trusted individual to make decisions about your medical care if you become too impaired to make your own decisions. A financial Power of Attorney has the ability to make financial decisions on your behalf. You can give both medical and financial powers to the same person, or divide them up.
You can also choose how long a Power of Attorney applies. A non-durable Power of Attorney gives someone power over your affairs for a designated amount of time, and sometimes for only one transaction. A Durable Power of Attorney, on the other hand, begins as soon as you are unable to make decisions for yourself and endures even after your death.
Are You Prepared?
Many of our clients and their families in the Longboat Key, Siesta Key, Sarasota, Lakewood Ranch, and Venice area of Florida feel that getting their affairs in order can be overwhelming. You may not always know the right decision to make. But taking the time to do this now is the most important thing you can do to secure your future.