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Blog: Minimizing Financial Clutter
52 WEEKS TO FINANCIAL ORGANIZATION: #14 Got Estate Organization?

It's appropriate that we talk about estate organization this week. Remember the old saying: The only two certainties in life are death and taxes?  We're painfully aware of the second of those two certainties this week as we scramble to submit our tax returns by April 15th.  Most of us don't "forget" to file our tax returns because the federal and state governments are kind enough to give us deadlines, as well as the incentive to file on-time to avoid interest and penalties.
Unfortunately, however, there is no such deadline (pun intended) for getting our legal affairs in order.  It's an uncomfortable subject for many of us.  After all, we feel young and healthy.  We're careful drivers.  We won't have to worry about "those things" for many years.  Right?  Maybe yes, but maybe not.  The fact is that none of us knows when we will die or become so incapacitated that we cannot make decisions for ourselves.  Therefore, we have to be prepared and organized!
According to estates and trusts attorney L. Content McLaughlin of Tydings & Rosenberg in Baltimore (www.tydingslaw.com),  EVERYONE (including YOU) needs to have these three legal documents in place:
1.       Last Will and Testament (or Revocable Living Trust)
If you have one, is it up-to-date?  Does it have the appropriate level of federal and state tax planning, based on current laws?  Have you named a guardian for your minor children and the appropriate person to serve as your personal representative?  Are your assets titled appropriately? 
2.       Power of Attorney
Your POA lets you name another person to make financial decisions for you.  It should be "durable", meaning that it will be exercisable even if you were to become disabled or incapacitated.  If you have a power of attorney, and it is more than 3 years old, however, you should know that it might not be accepted by everyone.  Is your power of attorney up-to-date? 
3.       Advance Health Care Directive
Your Medical Directive lets you name someone to make medical decisions for you if you cannot make them for yourself.  It also states how you want your health care handled if you are in a life-threatening situation.  If you have been certified incapable of making an informed decision regarding your medical treatment, the law will specify who can make those decisions for you.  (Remember the Terry Schiavo case?)  Does your Medical Directive reflect your current wishes?
Your Homework for This Week:
         Locate your existing Will, Power of Attorney, and Advance Health Care Directive.
         Review each document to see whether or not it reflects your current situation and wishes.
         If any of your documents is more than 3 years old, schedule an appointment with an estates and trusts attorney to review them and update them, if needed.
         Store your legal documents safely: 
o   Will:  Store the original, signed document in your attorney's will safe.  Give a copy to your personal representative, and keep a copy at home with your other vital documents.  DO NOT store your original will in your safe deposit box.
o   POA:  Give the original, signed document to your "attorney-in-fact" (the person you have named to make financial decisions for you).  Keep a copy with your other vital documents.
o   Advance Health Care Directive:  Give the original, signed document to the person you have authorized to make your medical decisions.  Give a copy to your doctor(s) for your medical chart, and keep a copy with your other vital documents.

posted on: 4/12/2009 11:30:00 AM by Katherine Trezise
category: Finances

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Minimizing Financial Clutter

by Katherine Trezise

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About Katherine:

Katherine Trezise is president of Absolutely Organized, based in Baltimore, MD. She is president-elect of the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization. Katherine holds a masters degree in business administration, is a Certified Professional Organizer® and a Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization®. Absolutely Organized specializes in helping people organize their homes, paperwork and financial records to make room in their lives for the things, people and activities that are most important to them.

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