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The start of a new year is always a great time to review your big picture goals.  Here are three quick items to review for your own personal protection, and your family’s protection.  Start by clarifying your goals.

Goal 1. Protect yourself

In the event of incapacity, you want the people you know and trust making important decisions on your behalf.  By executing a Durable Power of Attorney and Advance Health Care Directive you can make your choice formal and binding. Have you given your bank a copy of your Power of Attorney?  Have you given your doctor or health care provider a copy of your Advance Health Care Directive?  If you don’t provide a copy ahead of time, it will take longer for the bank or medical office to process and acknowledge the document and your agent’s authority.  Some institutions have a policy of rejecting documents that are several years old.

Goal 2. Provide for your chosen beneficiaries

It’s dangerous to assume that your property will be divided a particular way after you are gone.  Review your beneficiary designations on your life insurance policies and retirement accounts.  Have a conversation with your attorney about how you want things to go so he or she can warn you of hidden pitfalls.  Relationships that are obvious to you aren’t obvious to the law.  The law also doesn’t care about something your whole family knows.  You’d be surprised how often an estranged relative ends up being the big beneficiary because they are actually the closest blood relative.

Goal 3. Eliminate fights by providing clear direction

All too often after the death of parents, the children end up estranged from each other because of arguments over the estate.  Clear direction regarding the person in charge, their exact responsibilities, and exactly how things are to be divided can go a long way in eliminating damaging arguments.  Preserve family harmony by giving clear directions.