Monday, September 22, 2008

Estate planning for the young and broke

There's something to be said for having your affairs in order. Even though I'm 22 and seemingly healthy, you never know what tomorrow might bring. After watching all of the legal hassles my mother has to go through to take care of my grandparents, I've resolved to do my best to make things simpler if I'm ever incapacitated or otherwise out of the picture. Since I need only a handful of basic documents to take care of that, I've opted to get some software and set things up myself rather than paying a lawyer.

Thanks to an organizational membership, I was able to get Quicken Willmaker Plus 2008 for $19.95. (Note: I have no affiliation with Quicken or reason to believe this program is any better than any other. It was just my cheapest option. If you've found glaring flaws or a better program, please do let me know.) The program has thus far been easy to use and seems reasonably comprehensive. I may still ask my lawyer aunt to look over everything when I'm done.

Here's what I figure I need:

1. Alien Abduction Packet
If I ever need my parents to take over my finances, they'd better be able to find my accounts. At the moment, my mother is aware of my checking, savings, and Roth accounts, but she doesn't have the user names or passwords. Come to think of it, I've listed them as beneficiaries on my pension and group life insurance through work but have no idea whom they'd contact about that.

2. Durable Power of Attorney
Knowing where my money is won't do my folks a lot of good if they can't legally access it. I trust my mom and dad to make good decisions and act in my best interest if the need arises so I should make sure they have the authority to do so.

3. Health Care Proxy and Living Will
I'm stalling on this since making decisions about the end of my life is surprisingly difficult. It needs to be done, though. I wouldn't want to put the burden of making those choices wholly on my parents.

4. Will
Honestly, I could probably skip this if I felt like it since I don't have a ton of assets and would want everything to go to my parents anyway. I'm in the process of getting my HSBC account set up as P.O.D. so that money won't have to get held up in probate. As long as I'm in the process of getting everything else squared away, I might as well take care of this.

Once everything is done and notarized, I'll just pop it into a big envelope and have my parents stick it in their safe. Now, if only I could find a tactful way to ask them to do something similar and draw up such papers for themselves as well. I'm hopeful that it'll be decades (well, actually, centuries, but that's probably overly optimistic) before they'll need such things, but it would give me peace of mind to know I'd have one fewer thing to worry about in an emergency.


DogAteMyFinances said...

Just for yourself, make a list of what you would need if you had to evacuate. In the heat of the moment, you forget things like the dog's medication and your checkbook.

You could still get a small safe and have all your important papers in one place.

E.C. said...

Excellent idea! That had never occurred to me, but putting together that list is now on my action plan for this weekend.