Key Professionals Who Help Make Important Choices About Your Future

By Roz Jones

Your estate and everything in it is yours to make decisions about. You can decide to do whatever you want with your assets while you are alive and after your death as long as you are of sound mind in doing so. 

Wanting to protect your assets is normal and wanting to make sure you make good decisions is wise. You may not have the background or working knowledge about how to protect yourself legally, financially, and medically but there are experts who do. Their job is to offer you information and services that organize and carry out your wishes, making it possible for you to protect yourself as you grow older. 

Here are some key professionals who help make important choices about your future.

Financial Planners: As early as possible in your work life, it’s great to work with a financial planner who can help you best understand how income, taxes, investments, and savings all work together. A financial planner knows the current laws, what products produce the best results, and how to invest and save your money for whatever long-term plans you have. 

Insurance Agents: Like financial planners, insurance agents can help you save and protect your assets for the future. From insuring your car, home, and personal property to helping with life insurance and other forms of insurance that generate death benefits, or other income. An agent can help increase your income after you retire or in the event of a catastrophic life event. 

Primary Care Physicians: Outside of being the go-to for your healthcare, your primary care physician can help you create and carry out your advance directive and DNR notifications. Having someone to talk to with a wide-range of medical knowledge can help you sort through the options and make decisions that will protect you if/when there is a medical need. 

Probate Attorneys: There are attorneys who specialize in writing wills, trusts, and helping people make important decisions about their estate. These attorneys have streamlined ways to help you organize your information and legally protect your estate before and after your death. 

You don’t have to know all there is to know about medicine, money, and the law to protect yourself. You can access professionals who specialize in each of these areas and make informed decisions you can trust and count on when you need them most.

Do You Have a Will or Trust to Protect Your Assets?

Most people know what a will is. It’s a written document that disperses your assets and provides a care plan for your dependents after you die. Not everyone knows what a trust is or how important both are for your family. 

Generally speaking, a will is a document that goes into effect after you die, while a trust is in effect while you are alive and includes directives about your assets and the guardianship of minor children. Having a will and/or trust makes your wishes clear and legally makes them binding. Without a will or trust, things get tricky. 

What happens if you have a will or trust? 

  • There are specific guidelines for the disbursement of your assets and the care of your minor children in the event of your death
  • An executor of your choice is designated to oversee your estate and carry out your wishes
  • The time frame for disbursement of your assets and action plan are swift
  • Your wishes are legally binding and generally can’t be overturned 
  • Accounts can be managed and paid even after you die 

What happens if you do not have a will or trust? 

  • Your assets are held while the courts sort out disbursement
  • Someone else may have to incur costs to settle your estate 
  • Your wishes may not be fully known or preserved 
  • You can lose assets that aren’t protected 
  • Your children will not be protected for their care and custody
  • Long periods of time may go by before your estate is settled

A will or trust can help make certain your wishes are carried out and that you don’t lose any assets that are part of your estate. 

Creating a will or trust 

There are a few ways to create a will or trust. A will can be created on your own. There are no-cost and low-cost ways to create a will. There are services that can walk you through the process of creating a will if your estate is modest and you don’t have a lot to manage. 

Note: Writing a will isn’t as simple as sitting down with a Word doc. Once you’ve completed your will, it will need to be accompanied by a Self Proving Affidavit that is notarized. This legally ensures you are the author of your will and makes it easier for your family to enforce after your death.  

The most secure way to create a will or trust is through an attorney. Probate and estate-planning attorneys can help you craft a will or trust that will be recognized by your state in the event of your death and make things easy on your family and beneficiaries. 

What is an Estate and How Do You Protect It?

By Roz Jones

An estate typically refers to your personal property which may include but isn’t limited to: your real estate, business assets, investments, bank accounts, and personal property such as art, antiques, and jewelry. These are important assets that you worked to acquire and are part of your legacy for your family. 

Every estate is unique because people are different. Your estate will look nothing like your neighbor’s because you have different assets. Regardless, it is important to protect your estate and make certain it is safe in the event of your death. 

Protecting your estate isn’t hard, it just takes some time and effort. Once you’ve secured your assets you can rest easier knowing you are protected in the event you are incapable of managing your assets or you die. Additionally, being organized and taking the time to legally protect your assets makes it easier for your estate to be managed during probate. 

Here are some ways to protect your estate:

Get an appraisal- Assets have value but the value must be validated and proven. Appraisals are a great way to make sure your assets are valued at their maximum potential. Real estate, antiques, and other personal property can be assigned a value by an appraiser. You can include the appraisals with your will or trust information.  

Provide proof of ownership- A clean record of ownership is important. Being able to prove you are the legal owner of an asset can reduce disputes and streamline your estate. Provide bills of sale, pink slips, deeds, and other proofs of ownership with your will and trust information.   

Get a will or living trust- The ultimate way to protect your estate is through a living trust or a will. This document will include a legal record of your assets in your estate and directives for disbursement and distribution in the event of your death. 

You’ve worked hard to create a life filled with the things you love and have invested in. It’s important to protect your estate and make sure it isn’t lost to taxes or worse after you die. Take the time to organize your estate and legally protect it for your beneficiaries. An attorney will have even more ideas on how to protect your estate and can help you organize and strengthen it to serve you while you are alive and after you are gone. 

You’re Never Too Young or Too Old to Make End-of-Life Plans

By Roz Jones

“The idea is to die young as late as possible”- Ashley Montagu

Most people do not think about end-of-life planning unless they are forced to. It seems so far away when you’re young and vital and unless there is a grim reminder, it feels unnecessary. It sort of feels like something you do when you are older but each day you grow older you just don’t seem to feel old… yet.

You are never too young or too old to make end of life plans. Your planning may vary or change in depth over time, but it’s never too early or too late to talk about such things. Generally, something triggers a chat about end of life. 

  • An accident in your community
  • A loved one dies suddenly
  • Someone you know has a terminal diagnosis 

Things like this spark conversations because they are close to home. It’s a reminder – gentle or shocking – that we are not immortal. 

Here are some pro-tips for talking about end of life planning no matter what your age. 

Pro-tip: Talking with children- Children pass away. It’s an undeniable yet grim fact. Your child may have been touched directly by the passing of a friend or classmate or your child may have been given a diagnosis that could result in their death. Under the right circumstances, having a conversation about end of life plans may be right for your child. 

Ask open-ended questions that get your child thinking. You can ask about mature-themed issues in a way that is child-friendly and age-appropriate. It’s alright to ask about how your child would want to be buried or remembered during a memorial. Use this time to educate your child about the realities that everyone dies and that it is a natural part of living. 

Pro-tip: Talking with teens- Chances are greater your teen will know someone who has passed unexpectedly. Teens can be emotional about death, especially of friends their age. The developmental stage of tween and teen life can elevate emotions and intensify reactions to death. This shouldn’t diminish the importance of tackling the issue head-on. 

Be open and honest with your teen about your feelings about dying, death, and what your perspectives are. Ask for their thoughts and compare and contrast your beliefs. Seek to understand and come to conclusions about what your teen wants and how they feel about important issues like organ donation, life support, and what quality of life means to them. 

Pro-tip: Talking with adults- From your spouse or siblings to your aging parents, there is a wide range of ages in adulthood. Talking about end-of-life plans will vary based on who you are engaging and what role they play. Everyone is different and some people are more resistant to talking about end of life plans. Regardless, there are decisions that need to be made. 

Don’t blindside anyone with a talk about tough issues. Prep and plan to have a discussion. Do your best to decide what medical consents your family member agrees to and who will make decisions if they can’t. Make decisions about the types of burial or cremation they consent to and talk frankly about costs and how they will be met. 

Part of what makes talking about death scary is your attitude about it. The easier you approach the subject, the easier it is to talk about it. You are never too young to begin thinking about how you want to be supported medically and cared for when you die.