Times can get tough for your family, if you don’t have your documents.
If you are a farmer, a business owner or actually just an adult, there are a some crucial documents that you need to protect yourself and your loved ones, according to Ag Week in “Five documents every farmer should have.”
While there are five crucial documents everyone needs, according to an AARP report, six of 10 seniors don’t have a will, the number of farmers who have an estate plan is even fewer and advance care directives are even farther down on the list. That is not good for families.
Farm and ranch families often find themselves facing complicated issues about how the land should be divided among the next generation, and whether the next generation will continue to maintain the ranch or farm. This is something that estate planning addresses.
Many people think of the will as the estate plan. However, it’s only part of the plan. The will says who will inherit property, including assets and debts, and who will be responsible for carrying out your directions. That person is the executor, who acts as your agent when you have died.
While there are online wills available, it is recommended that farm and ranch families work with an estate planning attorney. They are encouraged to meet with a few, until they find one who they are comfortable with and they believe has the experience that suits the family’s situation. The attorney will help with how property is titled and how to handle the tax implications. These are both important parts of an estate plan.
Every adult needs an advance health care directive, the legal document that specifies the medical procedures that they want to maintain life, if there is a health crisis. An advance directive usually involves a living will, and names a person as health care power of attorney to make health care decisions, when you are unable to do so for yourself.
The living will is used to specify the types of medical procedures you do or do not wish to have performed to keep you alive. Medical professionals or first responders often do not have access to this document and must follow their legal and ethical requirement to maintain life, in any way possible. Make sure this document is readily available and that other family members know where it is located.
Provide a copy of the living will and durable power of attorney to your doctors and the institutions that usually provide your care. The power of attorney should specify who has primary responsibility to make these decisions and at least one alternate.
Talk with your physicians about your feelings and wishes for these documents. They may also benefit from having the person you have named as your power of attorney with you at the time of the conversation. That way everyone is clear about what your wishes are.
A power of attorney is given to an individual, your agent, who can make financial decisions on your behalf, if you are incapacitated. They can write checks, make deposits and have access to your safe deposit box. There will be forms to fill out, so don’t delay having them created and properly executed.
While it is not legally enforceable, write a letter of intention to accompany your will. Give a copy of your letter to your executor, and possibly to a trusted family member. This way, you can make sure they know:
- Where important documents, including life insurance policies, savings accounts, loans, leases, titles to property and other legal documents are located.
- Instructions for the care of minor children. Your will should name a guardian, but any information you can share about your children will be helpful.
- Instructions of what you want to happen to the family land.
Reference: Ag Week (April 5, 2019) “Five documents every farmer should have”