David Lerner Associates: Six Vital Documents All Adults Should Possess
Part of being a “grown-up” is making sure that you have in your possession a variety of important documents. Following are six vital documents that every adult should possess and keep locked away in a secure place:
1. Last will and testament— If you have possession of any assets whatsoever, then you should have a last will and testament prepared to ensure that your possessions are distributed according to your wishes after you die. Otherwise, the courts could decide what happens to them. While some possessions may pass automatically to your spouse, your estate may have to go through the probate process if you don’t have a will, which can be cumbersome and time-consuming for your heirs.
Software programs and websites are available that can help you create a will yourself if your situation is not complicated. Or, you can hire a lawyer to prepare a will for you, perhaps for as little as a few hundred dollars.
2. Living will and healthcare proxy— These are different from a last will and testament. A living will gives you the opportunity to express your desires regarding the implementation or withholding of life-sustaining measures if you are incapacitated. With a healthcare proxy, you designate someone else who can make healthcare decisions for you if you are unable to communicate them yourself for any reason, whether physical or mental.
3. Durable power of attorney — This document will name a representative whom you designate to make financial and legal decisions for you if you can’t make them for any reason, whether physical or mental. This person will also have access to your financial accounts and may even provide guardianship for your children under various conditions that you specify.
4. Estate plan— Many people think that just the rich need an estate plan, but this isn’t necessarily the case. If you have any assets that you wish to pass on to your heirs after you die, you should consider creating an estate plan to structure and arrange how they are passed on with minimal tax consequences for your heirs. An attorney who specializes in estate planning can provide assistance.
5. Credit reports— In today’s world, your credit report can make or break you financially. Your credit score may dictate the interest rate you pay on loans and credit cards, whether you are approved for a mortgage or car loan, and even whether or not you receive a job.
Unfortunately, credit reports aren’t foolproof — they often contain errors, so it’s your responsibility to monitor your credit reports and get errors fixed if you find them. You can obtain one free credit report each year from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com.
6. Financial manifesto — Some experts say that spouses should create a “financial manifesto” that lays out their financial dreams and goals and strategies they will pursue to achieve them. There is no set process or template for such a document — every couple should follow a process that works best for them.
Plan on setting aside a block of time to have a financial heart-to-heart with your spouse — make it fun by ordering in pizza or Chinese food. Then get everything written down on paper or into a document or spreadsheet. This way, when you have financial disagreements or need to make important financial decisions, you’ll have a master plan that you can refer back to.
Material contained in this article is provided for information purposes only and is not intended to be used in connection with the evaluation of any investments offered by David Lerner Associates, Inc. This material does not constitute an offer or recommendation to buy or sell securities and should not be considered in connection with the purchase or sale of securities.
Founded in 1976, David Lerner Associates is a privately-held broker/dealer with headquarters in Syosset, New York and branch offices in Westport, CT; Boca Raton, FL; Teaneck and Princeton, NJ; and White Plains, NY. For more information contact David Lerner Associates 1 877 367 5960 http://www.davidlerner.com