Unlike a football game or a fiscal year, the start of the 4th Quarter of life cannot be timed. It is not something we can mark on a calendar. Indeed, we may not know when we are in the midst of our 4th Quarter. That is why it is imperative to put into place a winning strategy.
A recent family tragedy prompts me to tell as many people as I can the importance of putting into place some simple things that will immeasurably help the people who love them.
The 3 Elements for Your Winning 4th Quarter Strategy:
1. Power of Attorney for Healthcare: This is sometimes referred to as an Advance Directive. Designate someone who is allowed to make decisions for you in the event you cannot make medical decisions. This prevents multiple people from arguing over how to manage your healthcare when a choice for treatment is needed. You can access valid and legal POA/Advance Directive forms for your state at: PrepareforYourCare.org. It is a very helpful website.
2. Power of Attorney for Finances: This person will have the ability to manage your financial obligations such as paying bills and ensuring the support of your dependents. Be sure to ask your bank representative if the bank has a specific form that it needs completed in order to recognize your POA for Finances. You can read more about Financial POAs at: AARP Financial POA. AARP has a lot of valuable information of its website.
3. Establish a Trust: A Trust protects any property you have and allows you to specify a Trustee to manage your property when you die. This allows your loved ones to avoid having the headache, delays and expense of Probate court. Many advisors say that it is best to consult with an attorney in order to avoid errors. You can access information about finding a lawyer at: FindLegalHelp.org which is the American Bar Association website, as well as at: ElderLaw.org which is the website of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys.
Until recently, I admit that I thought that Wills and Trusts were only necessary for people with a lot of wealth. That misunderstanding combined with a natural desire to avoid thinking about our own mortality has led too many of us to neglect these important issues.
It varies from state to state, but if you own anything of value it will benefit your loved ones for you to set up a Trust. Paying an attorney to establish a Trust will cost anywhere from $400-$1,200. The exact cost is determined by how complicated your situation may be as well as by where you live. That amount is small compared to the costs that someone you love will have to pay if your case goes into Probate court.
To get your case in and out of Probate court someone will need to: hire an attorney, pay for appraisals of any property you own, pay court costs and filing fees and possibly pay an accountant to locate all of your assets for the court. All of those expenses can be repaid from the estate after the Probate case is closed, but that can take a year or longer. And all of the additional costs decrease the value of your estate. So, in some ways, if you have very modest wealth (perhaps you have a small home and little cash savings) having a Trust is even more important in order to save on the fees that would be paid if things went into Probate court.
As the Autumn season begins, take some time to think about whether you have done all that you can to show kindness to your loved ones if the unthinkable should happen. Even if you see yourself as just beginning the 2nd or 3rd Quarter of life, none of us really knows where we are in the game. Advanced planning can help to alleviate stress and help you to enjoy the game of life at whatever point you find yourself.