The summer break is a good time to revisit some planning that could prove very helpful for your family. Consider it like sunblock for your assets to guard against some of the chaos that can present itself if you fail to plan.
These are not in any particular order and certainly not exhaustive. These are just a few ideas that might get your mind going.
First, health care directives, or health care powers of attorney, are very important. You should have a trusted person, or agent, appointed to not only obtain the correct information concerning your care, but also make decisions that are in accord with your wishes.
Your agent will need a document in accordance with HIPAA rules that would give him access to your information.
The document empowering your agent to make decisions for you when you are unable is known as a health care power of attorney.
You are the only you ever made. Protect yourself, get these documents and appoint an agent you trust to make decisions consistent with your wishes, not theirs.
Second, as we are discussing agents, think about the agent you have selected to assist you with your last will, known as a personal representative.
For your trust, if you have one, the agent is called a trustee. This agent is very important and can be a force towards problem or conflict resolution.
Transparency and the willingness to act in a fair manner is the most important quality for this agent, not financial savvy or cleverness.
It is better to have an agent willing to seek assistance with finances, tax reporting and accounting as opposed to one who struggles with open communication or humility. The goal is a smooth transition, not a protracted family fight.
Third, think about giving away three items of personal property this summer to the children, grandchildren or other members of the family.
Transferring personal property during your life allows you to share precious life moments with family and connect with the relationship instead of the property. It is the people that matter, not the stuff.
At the very least, make a personal property memorandum that sets forth those special items in sufficient detail to determine what it is and to whom it goes. An appraisal or full inventory is not necessary prior to this project; just get started.
Finally, really consider what to do with your family pet. If something happens to you today, who is taking out the dog or cat tomorrow?
Do you have someone to accept the custody of your pet if you were hospitalized for an extended period or if you died?
Pet trusts, to me, can be a strange thing indeed. The amount of funds necessary to make the management and creation of such a trust almost never happens.
It is often better to just pick out a fixed dollar amount to be given upon death outright to the caretaker with the trust that your pet will be in good hands.
Douglas S. Delaney, J.D., LL.M is a local tax and estate planning attorney in Bluffton. www.delaneylawfirmplansahead.com