Susan M. Graham, Certified Elder Law Attorney, Senior Edge Legal, Boise, Idaho.
“Last Instructions” Who knows what to do if something happens to you?
Hopefully you have created an estate plan with financial and health powers of attorney and a “Last Will” or a “Revocable Trust.” If so, good for you. What is the next step, for the agents you have identified, to follow your wishes?
First – I recommend you give the people you have appointed to make decisions for you during your lifetime, a copy of the financial and health powers of attorney you signed. That way, if necessary, they have the documents “in hand” to represent your wishes.
Second – Let the individuals you have selected to handle your affairs when you die know you are relying upon them and let them know where to find your planning documents.
Third – The only guarantee for each of us is that we will die one day. To make it easier for following your wishes for handling your remains: (1) pre-arrange with a funeral home what you want, (2) write down your preferences, and sign that document before a notary public, or (3) let your family know. In Idaho, the last choice is a poor choice. Under Idaho law, if the first two steps are not taken, then the next person with authority to make the decisions is the agent listed on a health power of attorney. If you rely on #3, it becomes a “free for all” as to who can decide.
Fourth – Provide the information needed by your financial and health agents if something should happen to you. List all your assets, accounts, insurance, debts, regular bills, credit cards, passwords, professionals you rely upon such as your attorney, accountant, insurance agents, banker and doctors, and who to contact in an emergency or when you die. Let your agents know where you keep this information.
The benefits of having your “ducks in a row” and your affairs in order according to a 2019 survey by Merrill Lynch are:
- Relieving the burden on my loved ones 43%
- Having some control over medical interventions 19%
- Being the one who decides what happens to my belongings 15%
- Being sure that my financial situation is managed properly 14%
- Having some control over my end of life and legacy 9%
A last gift to your family and loved ones is to create this final “checklist” and give them and you the peace of mind that they know what to do.
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 “Get Started on Your ‘Last Instructions,’” by Glenn Ruffenach, The Wall Street Journal, October 4, 2020 page B12