Now that it’s December, it’s a good idea to make a push to accomplish some things on last year’s list of Resolutions and plans for the year.
This is an article from a few years ago, but I think that the recommendations are still good ones (reprinted with link to the original content on estateplanning.com):
10 Things To Do Before the End of This Year
5. Secure/update health care documents. At the minimum, everyone over the age of 18 needs 1) a Durable Power of Attorney for Heath Care, which gives another person legal authority to make health care decisions (including life and death decisions) for you if you are unable to make them for yourself; and 2) HIPPA Authorizations, which give written consent for doctors to discuss your medical situation with others, including family members. In addition, a Revocable Living Trust is preferable over a Will at incapacity because it can prevent the court from controlling your assets.
6. Review/update guardian for minor kids. It is quite likely that the person you name as guardian for your children when they are small will not be the best choice as they get older. Also, this person could change his/her mind, move away or even become ill or die. Revisit your choice from time to time, and name more than one in case your first choice cannot serve. Remember, if you haven’t named a guardian who is able and willing to serve and something happens to you, the court will decide who will raise your kids.
7. Review/update beneficiary designations. This is especially important if your beneficiary has died or if you are divorced. If your beneficiary is incapacitated or is a minor, setting up a trust for this person and naming the trust as beneficiary will prevent the court from taking control of the proceeds.
8. Review/update your insurance. Check the amount of your life insurance coverage and see if it meets your family’s current needs. Consider getting long-term care insurance to help pay for the costs of long-term care (and preserve your assets for your family) in the event you and/or your spouse should need it due to illness or injury.
9. Talk to your children about your estate plan. You don’t have to show them bank and financial statements, but you can talk in general terms about what you are planning and why. The more they understand it, the more likely they are to readily accept it—and that will help to avoid discord after you are gone. You can also talk to them about your values and the opportunities that money can provide. Even better, show your values by doing—the holidays are an excellent time for families to do charitable work together.
10. Get basic documents for your unmarried kids who are over 18. It’s a mild shock when we learn we can’t see our college kids’ grades without their permission, even though we pay the tuition. It can be much worse if they become ill. Unmarried adults (18 and over) need to have a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and HIPPA Authorization so you can act on their behalf in a medical emergency. (See #5 above.) And, while you’re at it, go ahead and have your attorney prepare a Simple Will and Durable Power of Attorney. Hopefully, these will not be needed but if an event does occur, you will be glad you have them.