DALLAS — Show of hands: Who is ready to die? OK, that certainly doesn’t sound appealing.
So, as we do a whole series of reports about preparing for future eventualities, we’ll change the original idea from ‘The Death Checklist’ to ‘The Life Checklist’.
That makes sense anyway because preparing your finances for after you die is a part of life. And it’s a critical part for the people you leave behind.
Let’s start with the care you get that may keep you from dying right now.
Texas has long led the nation in the number of people who are uninsured. It’s a good idea to have health insurance in some form. Because if things go really wrong for you health-wise, it gets costly fast. The average hospital bill in Texas went up 38% from 2016 to 2020. The costs can be an onerous burden even if you are covered. But especially if you are not, those bills can quickly diminish the assets you might have been planning to leave behind to loved ones.
Choosing someone to make your health care decisions if you cannot
Regardless of your insurance situation, if you end up needing treatment, it may help you and those who care about you to designate someone now to be your agent with a medical power of attorney.
Some recommendations say if you are married you should fill out one of these forms too, even if the agent you name is your spouse.
In addition to filling out the form, you discuss your medical wishes with your designated medical power of attorney in case something happens to you, and you are unable or incompetent anymore to make your medical wishes known to healthcare providers.
Make sure the person you designate is someone you trust…and that it is someone who makes good decisions under pressure (and may be able to withstand pressure from other family members who might want something for you that goes against your wishes).
In this document you can limit the decisions your agent can make, you can allow it to go on indefinitely or put an expiration date on it, and you can choose alternate agents in case your agent dies or is incapacitated with you. You can also subsequently revoke this document and make a new one if you choose.
Choosing someone to handle your financial affairs if you cannot
If you want to designate the same person or another person to also handle your financial affairs, and make those decisions when you cannot, that’s going to require another document.
Whoever you select to handle your financial affairs if you are unable to, you want to make sure you really trust the person.
If you select this person to have what is called a durable power of attorney, they can make decisions about a lot of different things involving your money. On the form, you can initial the things they can do regarding your money, your possessions, your real estate, investments, social security, retirement, and other things…even your digital assets and content of electronic communications.
You can also limit or extend their powers. And you get to decide when the durable power of attorney begins.
You can also opt for co-agents and decide if they work together or work independently on your behalf. This would be in effect until your death. But you can revoke it, too.
If that seems like too much there are also limited powers of attorney for things like selling an automobile or dealing with your taxes.