Are you like me? Recently I had more time at home alone than I have had in years. What did I do with that time? My plan was to clean closets, baseboards, and garage. Also included in my plan was to work on my files. I have done some of this, but not nearly as much as I planned. Certainly the current crisis shows us that life is short and uncertain at best. Through my years of experience, here are some important questions:
Do I have needed legal documents signed, notarized, and filed in a secure place? Some people take care of getting Power of Attorney, Healthcare Directives, Will, Trust, etc. Then the papers are stuck back somewhere and neither the person nor his or her designated agent have a clue as to where they are. This is especially true if the individual has moved one or more times since completing these.
Have I given my agent(s) copies of all documents for their files? The agent will usually be an adult child or grandchild, sibling, or other trusted family member or friend. While you or your agent might not be able to locate your documents, he or she might be responsible enough to be able to locate their copy(ies).
Has the makeup of my family changed since my documents were completed? Have there been deaths, divorces, births, or other changes in circumstances that might affect my agents or beneficiaries? Sometimes the person and documents outlive named agents. Sometimes children are born who were not included in the original documents. Even without changes it is a good idea to review documents every 1–2 years.
If I receive payments as direct deposits, pay bills online, access retirement statements and other assets online, do I have a central location where user IDs and passwords are recorded? If I have a medical event like a stroke or pass away, my agent will surely need to be able to access these accounts. And you need to let that person know where these records are kept.
Do I have a list of all financial accounts—both assets and liabilities? There is a great tool for this at the FDIC website—www.fdic.gov. It is titled Checklist of Important Legal Documents and Financial Statements. It is critical for you to know what you have, what is needed, and can give your agent a summary in the event of your illness or death.
Have I named an alternate to my primary agent(s) in the event that person becomes unwilling or unable to serve? Many people name two agents who can serve jointly or individually. In today’s world, children grow up and move to other states or countries. Thought is needed as to how complicated it will be for an agent to manage business or healthcare from a distance.
Where do you start with all this?
We know that in the Hattiesburg area we have a great medical community. We are also blessed to have a great legal community. Ask relatives or friends to see if they can recommend an attorney. Most attorneys will meet your needs, either by phone or in person. Many times the first consultation is free. One thing we know is that the best (and only legal) source of legal advice is an attorney. Please do not count on what Uncle Clem or Aunt Gladys advises you to do unless he or she has a license to practice law.
Barbara Ellington-Lofton, Resident Benefits Specialist for Bedford Care Centers, can be reached by phone at 601-450-3744 or e-mail at email@example.com.Back to Top
July 09, 2020
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