My law office presents this Peace of Mind Checklist as a tool readers can use to organize their thoughts about and plans for the future, and to identify the vital estate documents readers need to reach their goals. The law office staff encourages you to share this checklist with others and discuss it with your close family members, as well as with your financial professional, attorney, accountant, and your executor.
Important Questions To Consider
Please consider and check only the following questions that apply to you:
- ____ I am concerned about losing my assets by paying the high costs of long-term care for myself and my spouse. Will we be forced to use all our assets to pay for care, or can assets be preserved for future personal use and for our family members?
- ____ My child is disabled. How can I protect my assets in order to provide for the future of my disabled child?
- ____ How can I plan my estate so the inheritance I leave to my children will be protected in the event a child gets divorced or is sued?
- ____ My parents are aging. What do I need to know in order to help my parents remain independent for as long as possible and protect their assets?
- ____ How can I minimize or eliminate the federal and/or state estate and inheritance taxes that must be paid upon my death?
- ____ Do I have to be wealthy to benefit from a revocable or living trust? What are its benefits? Is an irrevocable trust appropriate for me?
- ____ If I can’t make legal and financial decisions for myself, how can I be sure my affairs are conducted in my best interest?
- ____ If I am too ill to make health care decisions for myself, how can I be sure my wishes will be carried out?
- ____ How can I insure that my estate assets, money and property are distributed properly to my heirs when I pass away?
- ____ My parents just passed away. Who is responsible to administer their estate and how is an estate administration properly conducted?
Many of our clients come to us with the same questions as set forth above. Contact us for estate and elder law planning solutions that meet your needs.
Essential Estate and Financial Documents
The answers to the above questions often involve the preparation of various estate and asset protection planning documents including, but not limited to, the following:
A. Necessary Financial Documents
Financial documents can be crucial in many instances. If a family member cannot locate important documents like tax returns or bank account information, it could delay or even cause the senior to be denied public benefits based upon financial need, like Medicaid or Veterans benefits. Also, it becomes very difficult to administer an estate when the Executor or Administrator does not know about the nature of the decedent’s estate assets.
Vital financial documents include:
- List of all bank accounts
- Pension documents 401(k) information, and annuity contracts
- Tax returns
- Savings bonds, stock certificates or brokerage accounts
- Partnership and corporate operating agreements
- Deeds to all property
- Vehicle title
- Documentation of loans and debts, including all credit accounts
B. Healthcare Documents You Need
If a senior becomes incapacitated or can’t communicate, it’s vital that the senior’s wishes be stated in a living will (also known as a healthcare directive), and also that someone with the authority to represent the senior has been designated. Access to a senior’s medical history can be lifesaving during a medical emergency, is necessary when applying for public benefits, including veteran benefits and Medicaid, and is needed when moving to a senior community.
Important health care documents include:
- Health care proxy (durable health power-of-attorney)
- Authorization to release health-care information
- Living will (healthcare directive)
- Personal medical history
- Insurance card (Medicare, Medicaid, Independent)
- Long-term care insurance policy
C. End-of-Life and Estate Planning Documents You Need
When a cherished family member dies, it’s a sad and painful personal loss; but this pain can be compounded by the difficulty and stress of sorting out our loved one’s affairs. When a senior passes away without having a will, families can be thrown into legal and financial chaos. In some situations, the deceased senior’s children sue one another in a bitter fight over their parent’s estate.
Essential end-of-life documents include:
- Trust documents
- Life-insurance policies
- End of life instructions letter (regarding wishes not covered in will, for example regarding memorial)
- Organ donor card
D. Other Must-Have Documents
Marriage certificates and military records are required when applying for veteran benefits such as Aid and Attendance, and are also required in applications for many kinds of state and federal assistance.
Here’s a list of some other essentials:
- Marriage papers
- Divorce papers
- List of online usernames and passwords
- List of safe deposit boxes and the location of their keys
- Military records
- Birth certificate
- Driver’s license
- Social Security card
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