What Steps Can I Take to Prepare for the Future?

Planning for the future
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Preparing for the future involves getting your affairs in order.

People tend to fall into two camps.

They either constantly worry about the future or never consider how their current actions will impact them in the days, months, and years to come.

Neither is particularly helpful.

According to a recent National Institute on Aging article titled “Getting Your Affairs in Order Checklist: Documents to Prepare for the Future, it is best to be a thoughtful planner.

Planning for the future requires active preparation.
Estate planning is an important step in preparing for the future.

By considering the future and getting your affairs in order, you can live more intentionally in the present moment without being fretful or lazy.

What steps should you take to set yourself and your loved ones up for greater success and security?

Plan for your estate and finances.

Comprehensive estate planning for your finances encompasses preparing for incapacity and death.

A last will and testament is a legal document used to designate who will wrap up your estate when you die and how you would like your property distributed.

Until your death, your last will is just a pile of paper.

But wait, there is more.

Your last will must be admitted within six months of death in Kansas or within one year in Missouri.

Otherwise, the last will is still just a pile of paper and cannot be used going forward.

On the other hand, a general durable power of attorney for finances functions while you are still alive and continues when you are incapacitated.

This document is essential for ensuring bills, taxes, and other payments can be made when you are unable to do so yourself.

Depending on the type of financial power of attorney, your agent could have the authority to manage finances before (immediate) or only after you become incapacitated (springing).

Out of more than 3,000 clients, only a handful have opted to have this management authority begin only when they are declared incapacitated by a physician rather than immediately.

And two of that handful of clients have been in the last month.

Does that say something about folks being a little less trusting of late?

My thoughts on whether to have an “immediate” versus a “springing” authority?

If you do not trust the person you are appointing to act right now while you are healthy, then why on earth would you trust them when you are incapacitated?

I digress.

Plan for your future health care.

Estate planning can also protect your medical treatment wishes while incapacitated.

Advanced health care directives allow you to provide directions for your medical care.

These take effect when you are incapacitated through illness or injury.

A living will allows you to specify the treatments you would like or not like, especially at the end of your life.

With a power of attorney for health care, you can designate an individual to make medical decisions on your behalf when you cannot do so yourself.

Organize your important papers and copies of legal documents.

These estate planning documents and other important papers are only helpful in the future if your agents and loved ones can find them.

You can organize them by creating a single file or placing them together on a shelf or in a drawer.

Alternatively, you can create a single list or notebook detailing the location of these documents.

Keeping important papers in a waterproof or fireproof safe is wise to ensure greater security.

Tell someone you trust the location of the documents should an emergency arise.

Talk to your family and physician about advance care planning.

As you prepare for the future, talk with your doctors about your wishes and concerns about the treatment and care you want (or choose to forego).

Medicare covers these conversations during your annual wellness visit.

Some private insurance companies also cover this discussion.

After discussing what you would like, share your wishes with your family.

They should hear from you rather than be surprised at a later date.

Give permission in advance to discuss your condition with your caregiver.

Because health care proxies and certain power of attorney agents only have authority after you have become incapacitated, you may benefit from taking additional steps.

You may also want to grant permission for trusted family members, those appointed in your estate planning documents, and professional advisors to communicate with your physicians and access your medical records while you still have your full mental capacity.

Think “standalone HIPAA authorization” here.

Review your plans regularly.

Preparing for the future is not something one can do once.

Life circumstances and personal priorities change.

Often these changes will directly impact the plans you previously made.

Reviewing and updating your plans regularly is essential to protecting everyone you love and everything you have.

Reference: National Institute on Aging (July 25, 2023) “Getting Your Affairs in Order Checklist: Documents to Prepare for the Future

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