Five Estate Planning Questions To Ask Your Loved Ones This Holiday

family gathering together during the holidays

The holidays may look a bit different this year as many families are altering their holiday celebrations to be much smaller than usual, some outside, and others utilizing technology to have a ZoomsGiving to minimize the risk of spreading illness. But even though our holidays are changing, it doesn’t change the fact that these moments together–in person or virtually–are a great opportunity to talk about the future with your loved ones. As you gather around the table or screen this holiday season, here are five estate planning questions you should be asking your loved ones.

1. Who is going to handle your personal affairs if you no longer can?

This is often a difficult question to pose to an elderly loved one, but one that is very important. From banking accounts, bills, medical appointments, and more, knowing who is going to handle the financial and medical decisions of a loved one if they are no longer capable of doing so themselves can be challenging.

One way to get a hold of the situation before it’s needed is to create durable powers of attorney. This will allow you to make financial decisions for your loved one. You can also create a healthcare power of attorney which will allow you to make medical decisions for a loved one, however, you will also need a living will that outlines what the medical wishes are.

If you’ve previously created powers of attorney but family structures or simply wishes have changed, it’s important to review those documents and update them with new information.

2. Who is handling your medical decisions–Who’s on your HIPAA?

Creating a healthcare power of attorney is one way to decide who will handle a loved one’s medical decisions as well as the creation of a living will. But in those instances where your elderly loved one can still make decisions on their own, but maybe needs someone to accompany them to appointments or be able to speak with medical staff should something happen, making sure HIPAA documents are updated with the appropriate family member(s) is key.

You can update your HIPAA form at your doctor’s office or print out the form online and provide it to your medical providers.

3. Do you have an updated will?

Some couples decide to create a will after getting married to protect their spouse from financial ruin and heartache should the unthinkable happen. However, if years have passed since the will has been created, you may have had children, grandchildren, a divorce, second marriage, etc. which greatly changes who you may want to receive your estate.

It is important that wills are reviewed and updated with the help of a legal team to ensure that the will is not only valid but is accessible to the estate executor at the time of a loved one’s passing. This may include creating a document that explains where to find documents, sharing the information with banking institutions and legal teams you work with, etc.

4. Do you need a trust?

While not everyone needs a trust, for some, a trust is financially beneficial to create to avoid probate and some taxes.

In addition, if the trust creator is caring for a disabled loved one, they may wish to create a trust for that person to ensure they are cared for financially, even if the caretaker passes away. In addition, if the elderly loved one is nearing the age to qualify for Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare, there are trust options available that will allow them to still keep their assets without ruining their ability to get government assistance.

5. Have you included beneficiaries on your financial accounts?

Many families struggle with talking about finances, especially when it comes to death. But it’s important for loved ones to prepare for all of life’s moments and ensure that their assets are being given to the proper people. This includes IRAs, 401(k)s, pensions, investment accounts, life insurance policies, and retirement accounts.

By making sure the correct beneficiaries are listed on these accounts, as well as if the people on accounts are the same individuals listed in your trusts, you will save your family time and resources at the time of passing.

Take Time This Holiday to Review Estate Plans

The holidays may be different this year, but now more than ever it is imperative that you and your loved ones create updated estate planning documents to plan for the future. You worked hard to build your estate. We can help you preserve your assets and your legacy. Contact us today for a no-obligation consultation at (570) 348-0776 and schedule an appointment with Mazzoni Valvano Szewczyk & Karam. We can walk you through, step by step, all the legal options available to you.

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