Imagine for a moment you are on your way home from the store, and a dog jumps out in front of you. In a moment of surprise and quick reaction, you do your best to avoid the dog; however, you lose control of your vehicle and hit a tree. Thankfully, you survive the crash, but it requires an ambulance ride, a trip to the hospital, and a long recovery ahead. In a matter of a moment, your life has just changed. Fortunately, this scenario doesn’t happen often and very few of us die in a day; most of us fade away over the years. In my column today, I will talk about what happens when you are no longer the right person to make the most critical decisions and what you should have in place to limit mistakes if this were to happen to you or a loved one.
These situations don’t often happen for most people, and likely you’ll only have to deal with something like this once in a lifetime. As a financial planner, it is prevalent to see these situations, and we must help people through them often. So, what should you do if you find yourself dealing with unfortunate circumstances? You should plan ahead to prepare for something like this happening to you or a family member. Unfortunately, most people don’t plan, and they must make in-the-moment decisions that could negatively impact their financial future. At Financial Enhancement Group, one of our Five Critical Elements to planning is Risk Management and Life Planning. We have a designed process to make sure we help our families when a life event arises. If you are not working with a fiduciary financial professional, you must define the person who will help you when you can no longer make decisions on your own. Here are some things to make sure you have in order:
- Make sure you have the correct health care documents in place so that someone can make decisions for you if you cannot. Some standard documents that need to be in place are a Power of Attorney, a Living Will, and Do Not Resuscitate. These documents will aid the person in making difficult decisions that you have already defined.
- Keep an updated record of your financials so the person helping you during this time can take over. It is good to know how to access the bills that have to be paid and the financial accounts that you may have. Consolidating accounts such as bank accounts, investment accounts, and IRA/ROTH IRAs is beneficial.
- Make sure your beneficiaries are up to date. We recommend reviewing them at least annually.
- Make sure your trust and will documents are easily accessible. These also need to be reviewed regularly to ensure they stay current with any changes in tax policy or estate tax laws.
I would recommend that you keep a hard copy of the documents that I mentioned above and keep an electronic copy. The most important part is to make sure that you have a plan and discuss that plan with your loved ones so that if a situation does arise, they are prepared to act on your behalf and not react with a decision that may be outside of your wishes.
Joseph A. Clark is a Certified Financial Planner and Managing Partner of The Financial Enhancement Group, and an SEC Registered Investment Advisor. This article was co-authored with Aaron Rheaume Senior Advisor at the Financial Enhancement Group. Contact Joe at yourlifeafterwork.com or 800-928-4001. Securities offered through World Equity Group, Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory services can be provided by the Financial Enhancement Group (FEG) or World Equity Group. FEG and World Equity Group are separately owned and operated.