Do you have these 5 essential documents?

This e-zine was originally sent on February 19, 2010.  It may have been edited somewhat from the version that was originally emailed, so be sure to sign up to make sure you are getting our e-zines fresh!

“Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable.”

– Sydney J Harris

Hello,

Wow, has this last week has really flown by for you too, or is it just me? Earlier the kids and I went to go see an Allen Americans hockey game. I’ve forgotten how much fun minor league hockey can be!

Back when we lived in Austin, I used to take Grace (who was around 5 at the time) to the Austin Ice Bats games a lot. We had a ton of fun watching the game and just hanging out. I got to teach her the national anthem and show her how to cover her heart when we sung it.  That was really cool for me.  She also learned how to keep her drink in her left hand so she didn’t shake people’s hands with a cold hand (at the meet-and-greets they would have with the players and other fans), and what a power play, icing, and a slap shot is.  You know, all the important stuff a 5 year old NEEDS to know.  At the games, I would watch her jump around in the bounce house between the periods and sometimes she just HAD to go there during the game (I guess she wasn’t there just for the hockey 🙂  ).  And we had a great time going around the rink talking with the friends we made there.

Of course, it was a little awkward at first when the fights broke out – “yes, dear – I know they shouldn’t be  fighting…the fans are cheering because they want our guy to win… …you do know that just ’cause they are fighting that you still shouldn’t hit your sisters, right? …. Good, because I don’t want to get in trouble with your mom….Yeah, it’s just part of hockey, so uhm, its okay for these guys to fight….I guess….uhm….Oh, hey, is that the peanut guy? You wanted some peanuts to go with that cotton candy, hot dog, coke, and popcorn I just fed you, right?” By the end of the season, she would just put on her ear protection and keep coloring while she waited for the crowd to stop yelling and sit back down.  Good times!

There were no fights or bouce houses at our Allen Americans game, but lots of great fans and good hockey.  We also got to see a guy in an Abe Lincoln costume (who dropped the ceremonial puck), a guy walking around the concourse in really tall stilts, and apparently there was a gorilla chasing a banana at one point  —  I wish I hadn’t missed the gorilla, but Grace saw it.  Anyway, there aren’t too many more games this season, so if you get a chance to head out there, Go! It is a great time. Just try not to sit next to the guy beating the drums the whole game – I’m hoping that was just when we were there.

This week, I’d like to follow up a little on what we talked about last week and touch on five critical documents every family must have. Read on, and send your feedback! And, of course, if you need help with any of this, that’s exactly what I’m here for!

Aaron Miller’s

“Straight Talk” Personal Strategy

Five Critical Documents Every Family Must Have

While some families have openly shared financial information with one another, other families consider those figures dark secrets. Having heard too many financial horror stories I recommend financial openness and suggest an annual review of these five documents as a model for others.

1)  A will

You need a will to direct the transfer of your assets after your death, no matter how “poor” you are. Seven out of ten people don’t have a will, but don’t take comfort in numbers. Six of the seven won’t read this article, and the other three families have finally made a priority of getting a will. Go do your will. The larger your estate, the more complicated the will may be. But it’s time and money well spent. Advance planning can save your loved ones time, frustration and money.

2)  A living will

You need a living will so that someone else can make decisions about your life if you can’t. It also states your preferences for life-prolonging procedures in the event of permanent illness or unconsciousness where your death is imminent. It is sometimes called a “durable medical power of attorney.” A living will ensures your wishes are followed without making your family guess.

3)  A power of attorney

You need a power of attorney to authorize someone to manage your finances if you are sick or disabled. You might consider using a financial planner who manages accounts so they continue to manage your assets even if you are incapacitated.

Even if you have an asset manager, however, you should still have a power of attorney to facilitate your other financial obligations if you are incapacitated.

4)  A directory of basic information

You need a directory of basic information for anyone who needs to take over handling your finances in an emergency. You should collect a list of all your assets (stocks, mutual funds, bonds, real estate, loans, 401ks, IRAs, etc.), where they are located (safe-deposit box, former employers, brokerage accounts, etc.), their approximate value, and the names of your professional advisers (tax advisers, lawyers, financial planner, investment counselors, trustees, etc.). Be sure to include the appropriate account numbers, phone numbers and contact information.

If you think this information is hard for you to pull together, imagine how difficult it would be for someone else who is asked to fill your shoes in an emergency!

5)  Yearly financial statements

You need a yearly collection of financial statements both for yourself and also for those helping you with financial planning.

Your yearly financial statements should include a net worth statement, an asset allocation analysis, the cost basis for all taxable investments, the past year’s performance, your current income and a copy of the first two pages of your tax return.

This exercise will take some time to complete the first time you do it. However, in subsequent years, the task will not only take less time, but you will be able to compare this year’s total with prior years. That way you can quickly see how you are progressing toward your goals.

Communicating honestly about your finances with your family and putting your estate in order passes on a legacy of foresight and financial wisdom that will help generations to come. And it’s never too late to start.

To your family’s wealth, health, and happiness!

Aaron Miller

Miller Law Firm, PLLC
Your Life Is Our Life’s Work!
101 E. Park Blvd., Suite 600
Plano, Texas 75074
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Written by Miller Law Office

Miller Law Office

The Miller Law Office is here to help you build and protect your legacy. Rather than having a traditional estate planning practice, which is focused on transactions (such as the drawing up of wills and other documents), we have a more relational focus – having on-going contact with clients over the long-term, helping clients to protect themselves and their families.