May 15, 2012

Documents You Need to Have But Don't Want

Credit: David Castillo Dominici
As I was beginning this post, an Aflac commercial featuring Yogi Berra getting a haircut came to my mind. In the commercial, Yogi’s friend asks him what insurance he is chattering about. Yogi replies, “It’s the one you really need to have. If you don’t have it, that’s why you need it.” With apologies to the Aflac duck, this post is not about insurance, but it is about three documents you need to have.

  1. Financial Power of Attorney- Everyone should consider having this document in place so that a family member or a trusted friend can manage your financial affairs should something happen to you. Many people shrug this document off, but I ask you this: if you were to have an accident or become seriously ill, are you 100% confident that someone in your life would, or even could, pay all of your bills? What about all those account logins and passwords? Is your spouse even listed as someone the power company can speak to about your account? Without a Financial Power of Attorney, a family member would have to invest a lot of time and money to try to get authorization to handle your personal business if something were to happen to you. With a Financial Power of Attorney in place, even if you take a golf ball to the temple and are incapacitated, an agent you have designated will be able to handle your monthly bills or even more complicated financial affairs on your behalf, without any difficulty or delay.   
  2. Advanced Health Care Directive- Everyone should consider having this document in place so that a family member or a trusted friend can make health care decisions for you should you become incapacitated. This document varies from state to state, but it serves two purposes: (1) to give you a chance to outline how you want to be treated or to what extent you want your life prolonged should you become seriously injured or ill (like a living will) and (2) to allow you to designate someone or several people to have the authority to make health-related decisions for you that you are not in a position to make (like a health care proxy). If you remember the Terri Schiavo Case from several years ago, I don’t need to tell you why having an Advanced Health Care Directive is important. If you don’t want family members, friends, doctors, and courts fighting as they try to interpret your wishes, make sure you have this document.
  3. Last Will and Testament- In a perfect world, everyone over the age of 18 would have at least a simple will. You need a will to protect your family and protect your assets. The rules are different in every state, but having a will can minimize probate, reduce family conflict, and ensure that your earthly assets end up where you want them. Most importantly, if you have minor children, a will names a guardian that will take care of your most valuable assets.
Thinking about these documents is not fun. Preparing these documents takes time and will cost money, but they ensure that you are looked after. It will be hard enough on your friends and family when these documents have to be exercised, but at least everything will be in place. Having a Financial Power of Attorney, Advanced Health Care Directive, and a last will and testament will give you and the people you care for peace of mind.

Yogi was right about these documents, if you don’t have them, it’s why you need them!


1 comment:

  1. Great advice yet difficult to think about! Thanks,Tom!