New Year Resolutions & Essential Legal Documents Everyone Should Have

As we approach 2012, it is a great time to look back, see how much we have accomplished in 2011, and set our goals for the New Year.  This time of year is when many of us start writing New Year resolutions to set the tone for what to expect of ourselves.  At times, these resolutions can be a long list of to-do items that can overwhelm rather than inspire. So, for me the trick has always been to add some fun items. 

Every year, in addition to my professional and personal goals, I try to add a few fun things like playing tennis or travel to a new destination to keep me going.  My wife, Ana, for example creates a separate list of mostly fun items that you can see below (surprisingly, she added rising at 5 AM here too, hmmm?)

Over the years, I have noticed that in December, most people tend to review with me their existing legal documents or plan to see me in January to start something new.  So, I thought it would be great to share with you an essential list of legal documents everyone should have, regardless of how much money or assets they have.  Also, I added a few items (not legal documents) that are good to review every year to ensure they reflect your wishes. 


Essential Legal Documents


·     Power of Attorney: In case of your incapacity, you can assign someone to act on your behalf for your financial or other accounts.  This document can authorize someone you trust to pay your bills, take care of your utilities and any other financial affairs.

·     Healthcare documents: These documents designate your wishes for the end of life procedures (think of the Terri Schiavo case). Also, these designate who gets your healthcare documents, or who can make health decisions for you. These documents include:

    1. CA Advance Healthcare 
    2. Living Will
    3. HIPAA

·     Will and/or Trust: In case something happens to you, a Will or Trust designates who will be an executor or trustee of the estate, and how your assets are distributed. Talk to your attorney to find out whether a Will or Trust best suits your needs.  I am a big proponent of a Trust as it avoids probate (you can read more about this topic here). A Trust Package plan should also include a Pour-over-Will and all of the other documents mentioned. It is best to discuss your personal situation with a trusted attorney.

·     Guardian Instructions: If you are the parent of a child under 18 years old, creating guardian instructions is very important to ensure people you trust to take care of your child in case something happens to you. You can also include specific instructions about your views on education, religion or any other matters, such as medical conditions or food allergies. 


Additional Items to Review:


It is a great idea to review beneficiary designation forms from time to time to be sure they reflect your current wishes. If you were recently married, divorced or had more children, look into the following policies/plans to verify they reflect your wishes. 


·     Beneficiary designation(s) on your  life insurance policy

·     Beneficiary designation(s) on your  retirement plans

·     Beneficiary designation(s) on your investments accounts 

You may consider adding a few of these recommendations to your New Year resolutions. It will give you peace of mind that you took care of some essentials.  


Wishing you a happy, healthy and prosperous 2012!

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