Legal Documents You Need to Have
It’s a good idea for everyone to take steps to ensure that their wishes are carried out in case of their illness or death. According to the Texas Society of CPAs, there are a number of legal documents that can communicate your wishes and make life easier for your loved ones.
WRITE A WILL
Less than one-half of all Americans have a will, but these documents can ensure that your wishes are carried out and that your heirs receive the proper inheritance after you are gone without unnecessary delays. A will also enables you to name a guardian for your minor children. A will allows you to direct to whom your savings, investments, home, valuables and other assets will go once you die. You will need to name an executor, the person who will ensure that your wishes are followed. Your will should be kept in a safe location, such as your lawyer’s office or a fireproof home safe, and should be easily accessible if a death should occur.
CREATE A HEALTH CARE PROXY
How would you like your medical care to be handled in case you become ill and are unable to express your wishes? A health care proxy is a legal document that enables someone you choose—-a family member, friend or trusted adviser—to make health care decisions for you. Hospitals and health care professionals must abide by the decisions made by the person named in your health care proxy.
Each proxy can be unique. You can give your designated agent a great deal of authority to make decisions in a wide range of situations or you can limit their responsibility to certain circumstances. You can also offer specific instructions on the choices you would like made in specific cases. When you have a health care proxy, you make it possible for your family to avoid anxiety or disagreement about how you would like to address medical decisions.
SIGN A DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY
These legal documents are particularly recommended for older people or for those facing a serious or extended illness. A durable power of attorney allows someone you choose to make decisions for you if you are incapacitated by illness or otherwise unable to speak on your own behalf. That means that in an emergency, it will be easier for your loved ones to make choices for you or even tap into your assets to cover medical or other expenses. Signing a durable power of attorney now can make it possible for your loved ones to avoid or reduce legal fees to establish their rights when a crisis occurs.
DOCUMENT YOUR FUNERAL AND BURIAL PLANS
People often have strong feelings about whether they would like a lavish funeral or a simple cremation. Unfortunately, if they do not communicate their wishes to their loved ones, they may not be followed, and any money spent in advance on a funeral or burial site may be wasted if the family is unaware of the arrangement.
That’s why it’s a good idea to write down any preferences you may have for your funeral or burial and to document any funeral preplanning payments you have made. Or you may document your wishes in your will. You will make your loved ones’ lives much easier if you keep all of this paperwork in a place where they easily can find it before funeral plans are finalized.
CONSULT A CPA
Your local CPA can help you better understand the best ways to document your wishes. Turn to him or her with all your questions about important financial issues.
(Update and reviewed 2016)