By Janet Groene, F47166
Putting medical, financial, and estate matters in order; adopting a pet.
Death and taxes aren’t the only unavoidable matters that full-timers have to tangle with. Unlike people who live in one place, you have to deal with your “home” state, the state you’re in at the moment, and any states where you have assets. This month we look at wills, forms, permissions, and other contracts.
Medical matters. Do you have a medical power of attorney for yourself and your partner? A trust? A will? No matter what forms and agreements you signed in the past, things are different for full-timers, because the laws of your “home” state, or the state where you become ill, may determine what rights you have and also the rights of your family or heirs.
Let’s say you signed a power of attorney 10 years ago, giving powers to your spouse. In the meantime, you moved or divorced; that state’s laws changed; or the bank or brokerage house now requires you to fill out its own power of attorney forms. It’s time to take a new look at these important papers.
Generally, two forms are used in regard to health-care proxy. One is a living will stating your wishes concerning heroic measures to sustain life. The other is a medical power of attorney, naming someone to make medical decisions for you. If you don’t have such “advance directives,” your rights vary according to what state you’re in.
In most states, your spouse automatically gets control over medical decisions, but each state has its own order of precedence. Depending on the state where you end up sick or injured, your adult children, your siblings, or your parents could take precedence unless you have a written directive. Even more confusing, the order of precedence for allowing organ donation may be different from that for other medical decisions, even in the same state.
To avoid wrangling among your legally entitled loved ones (spouse, children, parents, siblings), you need updated directives. If you want your medical decisions in the hands of a nonrelated friend, life partner, business partner, or attorney, it’s even more important to get it in writing, preferably according to the laws of the state where you’re having medical treatment. At this time, only 12 states honor out-of-state powers forms.
You also can fill out a temporary form for a specific time or purpose. Say, for example, you are facing major surgery and want a particular person to have full power of attorney over your financial affairs until you’re on your feet again. Or you’re on the road and want to turn over powers to handle only one transaction, such as the sale of your house 2,000 miles away. There are pitfalls aplenty, so it pays to get current, competent legal advice.
Where there’s a will. Estate planner David Phillips, who, along with Bill Wolfkiel, coauthored the new book Estate Planning Made Easy ($21.95, Kaplan Publishing), says 70 percent of Americans don’t have adequate estate planning and wills. “No one likes to think about their own death,” Mr. Phillips said. “But the fact is that we all will die and we can’t take it with us. If you plan ahead, you ensure that the bulk of your wealth is given to people of your choosing and not the government.
“Confusion over recent tax codes is a key reason why you should develop a strong estate plan,” he continued. “After a (death) everyone is emotional. Understandably, they (can’t) grapple with complicated issues. Without proper planning the IRS can wind up with a dramatically bigger chunk of what you’ve worked so hard to earn.”
Estate Planning Made Easy is available at major bookstores, through online booksellers, or by visiting www.epmez.com.
Choosing a pet for full-timing. Diane Pomerance, Ph.D., has written a new book, Pet Parenthood: Adopting the Right Animal Companion For You ($9.95, Polaire Publications), to help those who are considering adding another member to the family. Before adopting a pet, she suggests that you consider the following points:
- Ask yourself how a pet will change your life and daily routine. Will it really fit your lifestyle?
- Ask who will care for the pet if you die or become seriously ill.
- Do you have space and time to play with and exercise an animal?
- Can you handle the cleaning chores?
- If you have a pet now, can you introduce a new one into the family?
“No one likes to put a price tag on the love and dedication of a beloved companion,” Ms. Pomerance said. “But the reality is, pets can be expensive and time-intensive. So it is important to understand the costs and responsibilities ahead of time when choosing your pet.”
Pet Parenthood: Adopting the Right Animal Companion For You is available through online booksellers or by visiting www.animalcompanionsandtheirpeople.com.
When in Tallahassee. Newcomers and drop-ins are welcome at the Tallahassee, Florida, Senior Center, where there are no age or membership requirements. The center’s schedule includes ballroom dancing, games, information programs, and much more. Stop in the next time you’re in Florida’s capital city. It’s located at 1400 N. Monroe St.; (850) 891-4000; www.talgov.com/residents/comm_services/senior.cfm.
Estate Planning Errors
David Phillips lists the 10 most common estate-planning mistakes.
1 Failure to have a plan/or having an improper plan
2 Misunderstanding the 2001 Tax Act (EGTRRA) and the impact it has on your estate
3 Improper use of jointly held property
4 Blindly leaving everything to your spouse
5 Not properly using the IRS-approved annual gift allowances
6 Failure to properly plan the distribution of your pension/retirement accounts
7 Lacking liquidity to cover estate settlement expenses
8 Improperly arranged and owned life insurance
9 Not properly preparing for the high cost of long-term medical care
10 Not leaving your life story for your family to enjoy forever