Getting Your Ducks in Order

We all want to be in control. It’s natural. Some of us are better planners than others. We are seeing more and more folks who want to have a game plan for multiple “what if” scenarios – addressing issues ranging across the board: finance, health care, retirement, medical, legal and death. Even if we don’t necessarily “do” something to set the stage for the “what if”, most of us from time to time let our minds drift to what would happen IF something happens.

One of the most fundamental thoughts, “what happens if I die?”. Would my family know that I have a Will and where to find it? What about that long ago purchased life insurance? Does my sister know where to find it? Have I made provisions for my children should I die? I’m the youngest of six children (much younger) and I would laugh each time my sister took a family trip and would go over the “list” of what to do if they died. At that time, I can recall thinking “overkill” thinking they were a bit OCD. I hate to admit this to them, but they were wise in doing that. Not only did I follow suite, but I spend much time coaching others to do the same. But there is so much more to plan for than DEATH.

I spend a lot of time doing public adult education and awareness about aging related issues. One common theme folks want to know about is how to go about getting their ducks in order and what this means. It means different things to different people. Our “ducks” so to speak, also change as we age [legal documents, financial products, insurance, healthcare and family].

Legal needs.

There are basic legal documents that I believe everyone needs. I’m not an attorney, but working closely with our clients as they deal with elder/health related issues, I know what we like to see in place legally BEFORE some sort of life crisis occurs (such as disability or nursing home).

Part of planning is having a discussion of what this looks like so one can be purposeful in securing appropriate legal counsel and/or putting an estate plan in place at the right time. One needs to go to an attorney equipped with the right questions to ask and list of what is important for their attorney to know. This is very similar to giving your doctor the 90 second version of your medical history, long term and recent events so they may make an accurate diagnosis.

Financial needs.

Folks need to know what it is in their portfolio. It is so important to know what sort of products are in place. How liquid are the products? Are there penalties if liquidated? Are they tax qualified accounts?

Insurance. There are so many types of insurance: life, medical, prescription, home owners, auto, umbrella policies and long term care insurance. Do you really know what you have and how it would come in to play should you have a long term care crisis?

Family. At the end of the day, it often comes down to family. People tend to want peace and harmony, especially at end of life. What sort of discussions are important to you that need to occur now?

Healthcare. It is important to give some thought to what healthcare means to you now and in the future as you age. One needs to know the “ins and outs” of how our health system works so it can be accessed efficiently should there be need for medical assistance down the road. It may be time to discuss how you would want to be treated if you had terminal illness down the road. People’s ideas about end of life decisions change as they age.

No one really likes to talk about this, but by doing so; you can pave the way for controlling many things at end of life when you have little control of anything else.

It’s worth a little time now to get your “ducks in order” so you are prepared when the “what if” happens to you.