Make a Resolution for the New Year
Resolve to start off the new year on the right foot! It’s a good time to take stock of your financial and legal documents and determine what needs to be updated, added, removed, or created. Here are some documents you may want to take a look at in 2018:
Wills and Trusts
Have you defined who will receive your estate, which charities you may want some money to go to, who will care for your children, or who is going to act as your personal representative? If you don’t have a will or trust in place already, 2018 may be the year to do so. Should you pass without a will or trust, your estate becomes intestate, meaning that the state steps in and makes decisions about who receives what from your home, possessions, and assets. If you have children, it is particularly important to define your wishes for who will become their guardian should you pass before your children become legal adults. The items you would need to have prepared are the names and contact information for yourself, your spouse (if applicable), and your personal representative(s) and guardian(s) for children. You may also want to already have in mind what your wishes are regarded disposition of remains, such as cremation, burial, and life support decisions. Your lawyer can guide you through everything else you might need to complete and file a will or trust.
Retirement and Life Insurance Beneficiaries
Are your beneficiaries correct and up-to-date? In many cases, it’s very easy to update the list of your beneficiaries online for your retirement and life insurance accounts. Keep in mind that often the list of named beneficiaries on the accounts takes precedence over what you have stated in a will or trust. Take ten minutes to sign in to your accounts and check that your beneficiaries are correct and updated.
Do you wish to be on life support? Do you want to be cremated or buried? Most importantly, do you have your medical and end-of-life wishes documented for your representative to be able to accurately fulfill your wishes? If not, it may be a good idea to make these crucial decisions sooner rather than later. No one particularly likes to think about being incapacitated or passing on, but not documenting your wishes leaves you vulnerable and creates stress and anxiety for those who are trying to guess what you might want. Take the guess work out of the equation and look at filling out a medical power of attorney, the Maryland MOLST, or mental health power of attorney.
Details of Accounts
One of the most common problems is having all the details of your accounts in one place for your representative or heirs to find. It’s more typical for people to have important documents in multiple places in varying states of organization. Things like insurance details, mortgage or property information, medical information, and even the details for online accounts all need to be in a place where your representative or heirs can find them. The beginning of the year is a great time to sort through