Estate planning is extra important for those who take on the high risks of being a first responder, such as firefighters, law enforcement officers, and paramedics. In addition to on-the job crisis, first responders may be faced with chronic health conditions related to their work. By following these estate planning tips from experts, first responders can ensure affairs are in order for their loved ones—and themselves.
Hopefully your family will not need to activate your estate plan until you have lived a long, happy and healthy live. In the event an emergency occurs, however, your loved ones will be thankful that you thought ahead. Additionally, careful estate planning can even account for your own medical and financial decisions, should you experience a decline in your capacity. Toward creating an estate plan, Phelps LaClair outlines three basic areas for action: taking inventory of your assets, making a list of beneficiaries and deciding who will fill other important roles.
Once you are armed with a list of all your assets, you’ll find it relatively easy to work with a lawyer, formalize plans for your beneficiaries, and appoint a representative to oversee your affairs when the time comes. When listing your assets, note their estimated value. Here are examples of assets to include on your list:
Real estate holdings
Life insurance policies
Stocks and bonds
Business ownership interests
Collectibles like jewelry, art, antiques, coins, etc.
Once you have a list of your assets, you can think about beneficiaries—those to whom you want to leave assets. Experts suggest: “Make a list of everyone you wish to leave your assets to, so you can ensure that you don’t leave anyone out. It’s important to revisit this list every few years to make new additions or remove beneficiaries as necessary. When you designate specific beneficiaries for an asset, make sure to also name a contingent beneficiary. If your primary beneficiary dies or refuses the inheritance, then the asset will automatically transfer to the contingent beneficiary.”
When working with a lawyer on your estate plan, you will designate a “personal representative.” This is the fiduciary who you trust to ultimately manage your affairs. Depending on the location and circumstances, your representative may be referred to specifically as an executor or administrator and if you create a trust, you will name a trustee. If your plan involves minor children, you will also designate a guardian. Despite the terminology subtleties and regional variations, personal representatives, executors, administrators, trustees and guardians share a common legal duty: they are fiduciaries who must avoid self-interest while acting in the best interest of the estate and its beneficiaries, in accordance with applicable state laws. Phelps LaClair reminds us of the importance of ensuring your designees understand the gravitas of the commitment they are making: “Just make sure that you discuss these roles with the people you assign them to before officially naming them in your estate plan. This way they’ll be better prepared to fill their role, and when the time comes they can effectively carry out your wishes.”
Given the significant trust placed in fiduciaries, they are often required to secure bonds guaranteeing their faithful performance. As a leading national bond provider, Colonial Surety helps personal representatives, executors, administrators and trustees in every state quickly and affordably obtain fiduciary bonds. The steps to obtaining a bond with Colonial are easy: get a quote online, fill in the information, and enter a payment method. Print or e-file the bond from anywhere, anytime.
Good To Do
In addition to planning ahead for loved ones, it’s important for first responders to consider their own medical and financial needs, should they experience a decline in capacity. Two legal documents for this purpose are a medical power of attorney and a financial power of attorney. These are often referred to simply as a POA, and as the names imply, the documents enable you to designate medical and financial authority to others who are empowered to make decisions for you if you become unable to do so. Experts offer this guidance:
A medical power of attorney (POA) is an advance directive that gives the person of your choice the power to make medical decisions on your behalf. Having a medical POA is essential for first responders, because it ensures that you will receive the right care if you are ever unable to make your own decisions. Without this document, you have no control over who the court will grant this power to…Similar to a medical POA, a financial POA gives someone the power to make financial decisions on your behalf. They can sign checks for you, open up new bank accounts in your name, manage your assets, etc. If you want someone you trust to handle your accounts, you’ll need to designate a financial POA. And, just like you did with your medical POA, be sure to discuss the role ahead of time with the person you choose to fulfill it.
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