I do a lot for my family. I am the keeper of the calendar, selector of the medical providers, registrar of the classes, even buyer of the toilet paper.
What would happen to my family if something were to happen to me?
My son is too young to be able to communicate anything to my husband or mother. So, it would be up to them to figure out what needed to be done, likely in a highly emotional state.
If you have done financial or estate planning, you may have already been provided with a document to help you gather important information like doctors’ phone numbers, credit card info, and blood types. (Otherwise, Google should be able to hook you up). If you’re like me, even though you know it’s important, it’s still sitting half finished somewhere in your office.
Ladies, we need to get this done.
I know it’s daunting. There’s so much information to write down. What if it got lost or stolen?
(If I’m totally honest, I just plain don’t want to do it.)
So, what can we do to make this a little easier?
- Gather cards. Doctors, lawyers, child care providers, schools, etc. Keep them somewhere easy to access and TELL people about them. Husband, mother, mother-in-law, best friend — whoever your support system might be. Let them know where to find these cards or even give them extras.
- Utilize your financial professional, accountant or attorney. Give that representative a list of information/contacts and/or copies of important paperwork — deeds, bank statements, insurance info, etc. As long as you have a representative under a financial power of attorney or given some other prior authorization (which I will talk about later), that professional should be able to help guide your family to the resources they need and information that might be crucial to making sure bills are paid, documents found, etc.
- Make it a family affair. Not only do I have to worry about my family, but I also need to worry about my parents. I have no idea where I’d start if something were to happen to my them. I don’t know their blood types, social security numbers, insurance coverage, etc. On top of being an emotional wreck, I would be drowning in sea of paperwork and making endless phone calls to try to gather basic information. So, my parents promised to gather their information and I promised to gather mine. We set a deadline and are keeping each other on track.
You can do this ladies! You and your loved ones will be so thankful when it’s done, especially if anything should happen to you.
So, once everything is officially completed gathered up and we’ve given copies to the people who need them….now what?
Now, it’s time to talk estate planning.
In my former life, I was an estate planning attorney. I spent a lot of time encouraging others to prepare for those moments when they are no longer in control of their own health care and financial affairs. While people assume that estate planning just deals with what happens when you die, it also deals with what happens if you become incapacitated (perhaps a stroke that renders you unable to make or communicate decisions).
In the state of Wisconsin, once you are 18 years of age, no one else can make a financial or medical decision for you without legal authority. Yes, ladies, this means that even your spouse needs authority to consent to medical treatment for you or access accounts in just your name. (Side note: you also need the authority to make decisions for your adult children.)
So, how does one go about giving authority?
Without getting too technical, you need to appoint a trusted person as your agent under your financial and healthcare powers of attorney. Your agent does not need to be your spouse. Your agent should be someone you trust to make the same decisions you would for yourself and (indirectly) your family.
Here are the two most popular types of lifetime planning documents:
- Healthcare Power of Attorney: This document only becomes effective upon a doctor or psychologist (or both) declaring you incapacitated. At that time, the person you have appointed as your agent takes over your health care decision making authority. Ideally, the document addresses issues such as life support, organ donation, feeding tubes, and nursing home admission. The agent’s authority ends at your death.
- Financial Power of Attorney: This document can be effective immediately or activated like the healthcare power of attorney. Your agent(s) will have the authority to handle your assets, pay bills, file taxes, etc as provided by the document. This document also terminates at your death.
What happens if you do not have a power of attorney and become incapacitated?
Most likely, you will end up in guardianship court. There is a lot involved in guardianship — a doctor’s evaluation of competency, a guardian ad litem (attorney appointed to represent the best interests of the alleged incompetent — YOU), lots of paperwork, and at least one court hearing. This can be a very emotional process and can sometimes result in family members fighting over who is the most appropriate person to be the guardian.
While I highly recommend going to an attorney, you can also check out the free forms and information on the Wisconsin Department of Health Services website.
Before signing any documents, you may wish to discuss with the people you are looking to appoint whether they feel comfortable taking on the role, have the time, and to make sure they truly understand what it is you would like them to do. If you appointment someone and they are unable to act, your documents wont do you any good.
Ladies, I get this is a lot. A LOT. But it’s important. You can do this. You will do this. It’s one of the best gifts you can give to your family.
*Please note that none of the above should be taken as legal advice.
Earlier this year, MkeMB had the opportunity to work with Angela Campion of Campion Law, LLC. Campion Law, LLC is a business and tax law firm in southeastern Wisconsin. Angela spoke to new and expecting moms at our spring Bloom Event about how to set up guardianships, wills, and trusts, an essential step that every parent needs to take to assure the security of their family. Attorney Angela Campion assists clients through all phases of their business or personal life cycle, including business counseling, tax planning, and estate planning. She also helps individual clients with their estate planning, probate, and tax planning needs.
To get started on making sure your family plan is secured, contact Angela Campion!
**Not a sponsored post.