Hopefully, your New Year is off to a good start! There’s no telling what 2019 will bring, and that’s both exciting and maybe even a little scary. 2019 will probably come with some surprises, and these surprises can be pleasant or less-than. One way that you can deal with challenges successfully is to plan in advance for them. Formulating concrete plans for less-than-pleasant surprises will help take the edge off them if they happen.
People get sick, and people pass away. These types of things are out of our control. In order to at least make these events more manageable, you should plan ahead. Handling these events is not out of your hands, even if the occurrence itself is. Here are some “worst case scenario” surprises that 2019 might (but hopefully will not) bring and how to deal with them.
Sickness: Making Healthcare Decisions
Sickness can be serious. You also may have some predesignated notions about how you want doctors and nurses to care for you when you are sick. Just because you are incapacitated does not mean that your wishes will be ignored. By setting up a healthcare directive, you ensure that your care preferences are honored. A healthcare directive is a document that details any directions you may have for doctors. A classic example of this is a “DNR” (Do Not Resuscitate) instruction. These are the types of closely-held decisions you want upheld even if you cannot communicate them verbally. A healthcare directive lets you do this.
Sickness: Making Financial Decisions
Another important decision-making area is finances. Your finances enter perilous territory when you are sick. Before this happens, you should nominate a power of attorney to take care of your finances. This POA is someone you trust. You know he or she will make the best decisions for you. You can give him or her instructions while you are healthy that will give them guidance about what to do in the event you become incapacitated. Your finances do not have to suffer just because your health is in a bad situation. Nominating a POA gives you control over your money.
Death is also inevitable. Depressing as that may sound, it is, sadly, true. Death also definitely qualifies as an unpleasant surprise. If you die, do you know where your assets and property will go? The answer “the courts will decide” is not going to work. Probate court will divide your estate and pay off your creditors first. Then, your family will get whatever is left. By setting up an estate plan with tools such as living trusts, you can ensure that your assets will go to the people you select. You avoid saddling others with the burden of probate court when you structure your estate plan properly.
If you have children and something happens to you, you will obviously want someone responsible to take care of them. Setting up guardianship in your estate plan allows you to appoint the guardian. This way, you will have peace of mind that your kids will be taken care of if something happens. If you do not have guardianship set up, the court will appoint a guardian, and it might not be a person you would choose. Make sure to ask your chosen guardian if they agree with your decision before setting the guardianship up.
Lastly, divorce is very common. More than half of marriages end in divorce. If you are undergoing this unpleasant process, you know that jointly-owned property is often very difficult to unravel. Deciding who owns what is not easy, especially if the divorce is acrimonious. When working on your estate plan, you will need to adjust for the divorce. If you left something to your ex-wife in the event of your death, you might want to change that. An estate planner can help you with this. The whole divorce process almost always affects estate plans, so it is best to face these changes head-on.
This article is somewhat of a bummer, but it is important to prepare for any unpleasant surprises that 2019 might bring. While you shouldn’t be pessimistic, optimism does not mean lack of preparation. Guarding your finances and protecting dependents is essential to a well-rounded estate plan.