Get Your Documents in Order in the New Year
New Year’s resolutions often focus on health, exercise and diet, but a financial check-up can be just as important to your overall wellness. While no one wants to think about illness or dying, being prepared when the moment comes can ensure that your wishes are met and will make things easier for your loved ones.
“Many of us think that we don’t need these documents now, but accidents and emergencies can truly happen at any time, and it always pays to be prepared,” said Dr. Jewelia Wagner. “Preparing these documents only takes a few hours, making this a New Year’s resolution that is easy to keep.”
No matter what time of year it is, you will appreciate the benefits of getting your financial house in order, including the following key documents:
- A will/trust. Simply put, a will gives you the chance to determine how you want to share your assets after you die. You can also name an executor who will help ensure that the will is carried out. If you have considerable assets and own property, you may also want to create a trust, which eliminates the probate process, maintains privacy, and can reduce time and money spent on the distribution process.
- A durable power of attorney. This person can make financial and legal decisions for you if you are unable to do so.
- A health care directive. This advanced directive includes two documents that can help you make arrangements in the event of a health crisis. A health care power of attorney names the person you authorize to make medical decisions for you, if necessary, while a living will explains the kind of care you want to receive when it comes to end-of-life treatment. Likewise, it is a good idea to discuss preferences with your doctor.
If you have a pretty straight-forward family and financial situation, you may be able to create these documents yourself. Otherwise, an attorney can help you cover all the bases. Finally, it also helps to organize your financial records and legal documents in one place, and to let a trusted friend or relative know where to find everything.