We can’t avoid tragedy, but we can plan for it.
Although, the opening quote may sting, it is the truth. Tragedy doesn’t discriminate and it doesn’t wait – we’ll see his face again. But rather than fearing tragedy, we should plan for it.
Recently, Sonoma had to say goodbye to a wonderful man way before his time. He was a good guy, a loving husband, a hard working professional and a dedicated and energetic father. It is with his family’s permission that I share this tragedy in the hopes that when the next tragedy befalls someone – they have planned for it.
When I talk to young couples I sometimes worry that I am “selling fear”. Counseling seniors is different – they know that the end of their lives is soon and we can discuss estate planning as a celebration or even a crescendo of their lives. But with young couples, estate planning is simply for tragedy. Important nonetheless, even in the absence of any sort of positivity. If tragedy should strike your young family, take note below to hopefully minimize the tragedy.
Life insurance. I cannot stress this enough for young couples. For healthy (even relatively healthy) families with minor children, life insurance is a savior. Life insurance is inexpensive, easy to get and comes in amounts that can make a mortgage disappear, make a single income sufficient and alleviate final medical or illness expenses. After the loss of a loved one, an influx of tax-free cash is likely necessary. Not all policies are the same and your beneficiaries should be carefully discussed with an estate planning professional. Coordinating your beneficiary designations with your estate plan is also advised.
Will. A will names a guardian for your minor child. It is the customary document that accomplishes this goal. Although the court reserves the right to place the child based on the “best interests of the child,” beneficiary designations are almost never denied when made through a validly executed will. You should carefully consider who you chose to act as your children’s guardian and name several guardians in case some of those chosen can’t perform their duties.
Power of Attorney for Finances. If a trust is not used, as can be the case with many young couples as they have not saved enough to warrant the use of a trust, a power of attorney for finances will be critical to the monetary stability of the household when a spouse is alive, but incapacitated. A POA is used to activate social security benefits, withdraw money from and IRA or 401(k), borrow from a life insurance plan, contact DMV, etc. The beauty of a POA is that it spans across all of your finances, not just an account here or there.
Advanced Health Care Directive. Similar to a POA, an AHCD allows one spouse to authorize medical care for the other should they be alive but incapacitated. Often times, medical care facilities will allow spouses to be involved in authorizing and/or approving medical care, but usually only for routine matters. When the serious issues come around, a formal legal document is usually needed. Medical issues can arise for the young just as easily as the old. It is never too early to consider this document.
This is just a scratch on the surface when young couples/families should plan for incapacity. If you want to know more contact an estate planning attorney before it’s too late.
Eric S. Gullotta, JD, CPA, MS (Tax) focuses on estate planning and taxation law. His office is located at 232 West Napa Street, Suite A, in Sonoma. Contact him at 938.7234 or visit Gullottalaw.com.