So many of us make New Year’s resolutions – to eat healthier, read more books or walk further. Been there, done that, got the treadmill. But what about looking after yourself in a different way this year? How about ensuring that your legal affairs are in order?
There are only 3 things:
1. Review and if necessary update your Will. (I’m assuming you have one.) Has there been any change in your family dynamics (such as the birth of a child or grandchild)? Has anything changed in your personal or financial situation that you want to address? If you have created any trusts you should note that some changes to their tax treatment come into effect today
2. Contact your executor and alternate executor. Do they know your wishes? Do you want them to know what is in your Will? Is this still the person or people that you want to have looking after your affairs? Have you spoken to them lately?
Are you an executor for someone? Have you spoken to them lately? Has anything changed in their life or in yours such that you cannot or could not act for them?
3. Review your Powers of Attorney. (I’m assuming again.) There are two documents: one for property – all your financial matters, and another for health care – all your daily living and medical matters. The person you name as attorney can be the same or different for each one. You should have a substitute attorney for both. Your attorney and your executor can be the same person or different people.
A personal trust (called an “alter ego trust” or a “self-benefit trust” depending on your circumstances) can be used in place of a Power of Attorney.
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For those of you who may still be hesitating in making your Will or assigning a Power of Attorney simply look at these as insurance of a different kind. You have house and contents insurance “just in case” so why wouldn’t you chose to protect your living self with Powers of Attorney or a Trust or be able to dictate what happens to your belongings through your Will?
Although you do not require a lawyer in order to write a Will or set up a Trust it is important that you get competent legal and tax advice. Every situation is different. An estates and trusts lawyer will ensure that your documents say what you think they say and that you get what you want. If you wish something special or potentially unusual it’s best to ensure that you have it written in a way that does not leave room for a different interpretation.
It’s better to have something that you can change than nothing in place at all. You can alter or amend these documents as often as you wish until the day that you can’t.