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Mid-Southerners age 50 and better

A legal will is essential, no matter your age

By Ray Brandon | Sep 24, 2012, 10:07 a.m.

Special To The Best Times

We’ve heard it over and over – the importance of making it clear to our family and friends what we want when it’s time to “make the switch.” It’s easy to understand why we avoid doing it, but that makes it no less important. So let’s review the basics.

Having a legal will is essential no matter what your age. Don’t keep your naming of executor, trustee, etc., a secret. If you have minor children, be sure to identify the person you’ve asked to be their guardian and make sure they’re OK with such an important responsibility. If you’re leaving things in trust or not dividing things equally among your kids, warn them in advance. If there are particular family heirlooms you want to go to specific members of your family, include a note in your own handwriting that says so.

A living will and power of attorney for property matters are also vital. The advanced care plan at TN.GOV combines a living will with health care power of attorney in one fairly comprehensive document that addresses a number of care issues.

Go ahead and make plans for your funeral, or lack of one, too. From music to flowers to interment preferences, include everything and get specific about it. If your plans are expensive, make sure you set aside funds specifically for this purpose. Planning your own funeral takes a huge burden off your survivors by eliminating a lot of guesswork and decision making at the time they are grieving most. Write it down and sign it so there’s no doubt that this was your idea.

Talk with your attorney about the relative advantages of a Revocable Living Trust. There certainly are additional costs associated with one on the front end, but they can help in many ways on the other.

Copies of all these documents should be kept together – along with records about your financial investments, loans, bank accounts, lawyer, CPA, insurance policies, and other key items. Your financial planner should have copies of everything.

Then show at least two people where to find that file and explain everything in it. Encourage them to ask questions. Communicating your plans is every bit as important as making them.

Once you’ve made plans for your death, you can get on with your life knowing that when the inevitable occurs your loved ones will know what you really wanted.

Ray Brandon, CFP, CFA, is president of Brandon Financial Planning, Inc. (www.brandonplanning.com)

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