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October 21, 2013
Guest column from Donna R. Chapel, CPA/PFS, CFP®
Did you know that October 21st through October 27th is National Estate Planning Awareness Week?
While this is not necessarily a week for celebration, it is important nonetheless. This is a week designed to create awareness for those that may need to take action. Do you have an estate plan? Is it current?
When I ask these questions of my clients, the answers vary considerably. Often, their estate plans were created many years ago when their families were younger. Unfortunately, their plans have not been modified as their life circumstances changed.
A formal estate plan should include your will, general durable power of attorney, medical durable power of attorney and medical directives. It may include other documents such as a living trust and a letter of instruction to those you place in charge. The will is the most readily known document as it distributes your property to your selected heirs or charities upon your death. (If you do not have a will, the State will happily decide who should receive your assets!)
Your general durable power of attorney will take effect if you should become incapacitated. It allows you to determine who can act on your behalf and grants them specific authority. Your medical power of attorney also authorizes a loved one to make medical decisions for you and should also contain HIPAA authority so that your health care providers can speak freely to the person named. The advanced medical directives document provides your family with instructions for your care, including what treatments and life saving measures you wish to receive (or not receive) when you can no longer speak for yourself.
While the documents listed above are legal and binding, letters of instruction provide you with the opportunity to express your personal thoughts and wishes. It may include things such as your funeral and burial wishes or other matters you wish to remain private.
If you do not have an estate plan, you should consider meeting with an attorney to have one prepared. This is especially important if you have young children and wish to name their future guardian. If you already have a plan, you should review this plan with your attorney or financial planner. Only an attorney can effect changes to your documents. A financial planner's role will be educational in nature, making sure you thoroughly understand the important options available to you with respect to your last wishes.
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Phone: (970) 204-1376
United Way of Larimer County is pleased to introduce our new planned giving website, and we hope you'll find it valuable! It includes current planning information that you can use at your convenience.
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