Money Smart Week: The Five Documents You Need When Estate Planning

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It’s Money Smart Week which is an observance created by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago in 2002.

It’s a public awareness campaign to help individuals balance their finances.

During this time, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Steuben County is helping residents with this.

To kick off the week, it held a free workshop Monday afternoon on estate planning and explained why it’s important to be prepared now before it’s too late.

Estate planning is something many individuals don’t like to think about, but reality is death is inevitable.

During the workshop, Attorney and CPA Patrick Roth of Roth Elder Law highlighted the five critical documents needed to have prepared.

“The first is a will which directs where your property goes when you pass away,” Roth said. “The second is power of attorney (POA), that is who is going to handle financial and general things like the mail and utilities if you’re not able to, and then the (three) health care documents.”

Those include:

1. The health care proxy which appoints who will make medical decisions for you if you lose the ability to make those decisions for yourself.

2. The living will which directs guidance for your health care.

3. HIPAA release.

Some individuals might need more documents, but it depends on your situation. These five are a good start.

It’s also important to note that estate planning isn’t just for the elderly. Anyone 18 years or older is encouraged to start planning.

“Nobody has a crystal ball,” Nancy Reigelsperger, CCE Steuben Financial Educator, said. “Nobody knows if and when it’s going to be happen.”

Getting your affairs in order now makes sure things run smoothly and that your assets go to the people who you actually want them to go to.

Roth says less than 50 percent of adult Americans have a will and even less have medical documents in place for who controls their medical decisions.

He’s hoping to educate more people and make it easier for your family and loved ones so that they have the legal documents to be able to carry out your wishes.

“In the end, it’s up to them to take action. Hopefully after today, they will make sure to either update their plan, if they have one, or go get all five documents if they haven’t done anything yet.”

There are more workshops taking place for the remainder of the week.

To find out the location, theme, time, visit putknowledgetowork.org. Again, it’s all free.

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