A Publication of WTVP

As we enter 2004, we're all making or considering New Year's resolutions. Many may have already broken some or all of theirs. One resolution, which can greatly aid your family and community, is to update your final plans. Personal experience with the death of a woman, age 79, and a man, age 54, in the latter part of 2003 has led to this topic. These deaths weren't expected and have highlighted the need for preparedness.

The following is a simple checklist of items one should consider to be prepared:

The forms for living wills and advance medical directives are established by state law. Your attorney or local hospital can provide you with the form. Considering your desires, prior to their needed use, will help your family at a very difficult time and generally will enable your wishes to be followed. The now-famous Florida case could have been less litigious if the person had expressed her desires in writing.

Many of us are aware of friends and family who have benefited from an organ transplant. Have you considered the opportunity to help others by being an organ donor?

Is there a special Bible verse or a hymn you would want used at your service? Who would you want to speak, sing, or be a service participant? Simple notes of your wishes will aid family members as they make these plans. A short biographical outline with dates will also be of help.

Do you have a will or a living revocable trust? All adults should have a will or an alternative. These guide the family, trustee, or court in assuring your transfer plans are carried out. This allows you to provide for surviving family and heirs in a way that meets your wishes and generally reduces disagreements over distributions.

Having an inventory of what you own and having the information about real and personal property, with regard to where they're located and how they're titled, will make administration of your estate much easier. Where are the titles? Which brokerage house or broker will need to be contacted? List the bank(s) where accounts exist. Are there special pieces of personal property you want a specific individual to have? If so, note it on the inventory so your wishes are known.

Review who's the current primary, secondary, or contingent beneficiary to your IRA, pension, annuity, and life insurance plans. Make sure each plan or policy is up to date. This includes various accident policies. Note them in the inventory discussed earlier.

If you have minor children or dependents, who would you want appointed as their guardian? A court will ultimately determine this, but your designation will help influence the court's decision.

Finally, have you thought about a charitable gift or bequest? Sometimes this can be done with a current life income arrangement, or you can designate charitable transfers in your will or trust. These gifts are of great importance to hospitals and other charitable organizations within your community. Please consider the long-term good these charitable plans can make possible.

As you proceed, it's important to discuss these plans with your loved ones and your executor or trustee. This is not the time to spring surprises, but rather to insure there's understanding so any questions can be answered while there's still that opportunity.

Be prepared in 2004. IBI