Not every preparation for retirement requires buying a financial product. You can increase your peace of mind by completing 3 sets of paperwork. To find out how you and your heirs can feel better about the future, read on.
#1 – Complete your POLST form and consider submitting it to your state registry – If you are like most people, you want to be sure your physicians and hospitals honor your emergency medical treatment wishes.
In a life-threatening medical situation, you may want everything possible done to save your life. Alternatively, you may prefer that nature be allowed to take its course and medical interventions be limited to maintaining your comfort. Or you may want a level of intervention somewhere between those extremes.
The problem is assuring that your wishes are known to the medical personnel caring for you.
In most states, you can designate a person to make such decisions when you are incapacitated by executing a medical power of attorney. You may be able to complete an advance directive that specifies your preferences.
But these documents are pieces of paper. They may not be available or even known when you need them. If you are unable to speak and nobody who knows of your preparations is around, how will medical personnel ever know your wishes?
The State of Oregon confronted this problem in 2009. For several decades, residents had been expressing their wishes on a form called “Physicians Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatments” (POLST). This form allowed people to express their end-of-life wishes on a form signed by a physician.
Realizing that these forms were not necessarily available when needed, the state legislature created an electronic registry for these forms.
You can now discuss your wishes with your physician, record them, get the physician’s signature, and have the form submitted to the registry in one visit. The registry will then assign your form a unique identification number, and send you refrigerator magnets and stickers with that number on them.
As long as that number is available to medical personnel; they will have access to your treatment wishes. Go here for more information. Then make an appointment with your physician.
More than 30 states have adopted some form of Oregon’s system.
#2 – Make a will – You have probably been told to make a will your entire adult life. If you have not already done so, now is an ideal time to do that. Spending some money on a lawyer will allow you to know that your bequests will go to the people you choose.
Your life insurance benefits and a few other kinds of accounts will go to their designated beneficiaries without a will. But a will is the means to assure that other possessions go where you want them.
#3 – Prepare a letter telling those who will handle your estate where to find important documents. Your spouse, executor and survivors will need to know where to find important financial and legal documents.
The best way you can simplify things for them is to prepare a written communication telling them where to find these documents.
These might include
- Tax returns for as many years as possible.
- The location of brokerage accounts.
- Copies of insurance policies.
- Statements and documentation of debts you owe and debts owed to you.
- Names of employers or former employers that still serve as 401(k) custodians, pay you a pension, or have other financial relationships with you.
- Names and contact information of people whom you would like notified of your death.
- Computer passwords
- Place copies of this letter in places where people can find it: in your desk, with your personal papers or anywhere else you might expect people to look.
These steps may seem obvious. But they are the kinds of actions that people often do not get around to. Make life easier for you and your survivors by finding time to complete them.