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Estate Planning—the final chapter

final chapterThe weekend is over. During the last two days your family came together and had that “talk,” but before everyone goes their separate ways; some follow-up is required. Here are some of the things you should make sure are accomplished. read more…

Markets wrestle with the unknown

“Double, double toil and trouble; fire burn, and cauldron bubble.”

Macbeth by William Shakespeare

Jobs, politics, the dollar and oil, stir in a little seasonality, and what you have is a witch’s brew of uncertainty. And we all know how much the markets abhor the unknown. read more…

Giving up control in the event you need to

passing the torchThe more successful you are, the more difficulty you face in wrestling with one inescapable fact. In preparing to pass the torch to your heirs, you need to give them the power to decide what happens to you and your estate in the event you can’t.

That’s not an easy thing to get your arms around if you have been the go-to guy or gal that the family depends on when life’s hard knocks come visiting. How do you entrust your own health and wealth to others? Even if you love them to death, are they really capable of taking care of you in your time of need?

No question, it is a problem that you need to deal with and resolve before that family meeting I have been writing about in this series. Specifically, there are three documents you must create and complete: a durable power of attorney (DPOA), a living will and a health-care proxy. Let’s begin with the DPOA.

This document allows someone to act on your behalf or allows you to act on someone else’s behalf, such as your parents. That means you can sign checks for them and other legal documents like tax returns, etc. Bottom line: the DPOA allows someone to control your money, so you better be sure whoever you pick is trustworthy, responsible and knows something about managing money. It is best to name one person and have another as a back-up just in case.

In addition, it is important that you or your parents have a durable power of attorney for each other. I had a client who failed to do so and created for his wife endless problems. She could not change investments for him in his tax-deferred accounts when the markets took a dive, nor could she draw money from his checking account to pay bills.

A living will is different than a will, which I covered in a prior column. While a will explains to your heirs who gets what, the living will is all about advance directives. These are legal directions you want followed in the event you require serious medical care. Your living will would address questions such as the kind of medical treatment you want (or don’t want), which person can make medical decisions for you when you can’t, or how comfortable you want to be and what, if anything, you want your loved ones to know.

For those interested, you can actually purchase a copy of something called “Five Wishes” from Aging with Dignity based in Florida for a nominal sum. It addresses all of the above concerns and can act as a legal document as long as it is witnessed and notarized. Take a look at it on the internet.

The second advance directive is familiar to many of us—the health care proxy, also called a health care power of attorney. The person who holds this power is equally as important as whoever you trust with your DPOA. The health care proxy holder has the responsibility of making certain that the doctors and medical staff carry out your wishes specified in your living will.

In the event of a life and death decision, it is this person who has the authority to make that call. Your child may not be the best person for this job. I know my wife had that responsibility when her father became ill and it is not a pleasant task. You may want to select a close friend instead and never select more than one person.

I realize that this has not been the most uplifting of columns. The sober subject matter can certainly be a downer, but it is necessary. It will be a big elephant in the room when your family meeting gets started.  You may even want to pass this column along to your prospective heirs before discussing you or your parents’ thinking on these subjects. The point is to begin the conversations now rather than wait until it may be too late.

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Markets hold on to weekly gains

It was a struggle, but the stock market indexes stubbornly refused to cave in despite some really horrendous earnings reports. A battle is being waged among bulls and bears right here, right now. Who will win? read more…

Leaving your Legacy

It may not seem so sometimes, but your children value your opinion. The older they get, the more importance they place on things like your ethics, moral teachings and values. That’s why it is extremely important to leave a legacy after you are gone that your children can turn to when they need it. read more…

The Doha Dilemma

Will they or won’t they freeze oil production this weekend at the OPEC meeting in Doha, Qatar? All the main oil producers will show up. The direction of oil prices (and the markets) may hinge on the outcome. read more…

Have you had “The Talk” yet?

Whether you are a Baby Boomer or the child of one, it is about time you faced the music. We all know that life ends, no matter how hard we try to ignore it. Having a family meeting before it is too late may save all of you needless heartache and financial turmoil. read more…

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About Bill

Bill Schmick was born in a blue-collar neighborhood of Philadelphia, just a few blocks north of “Rocky Balboa” territory where most of his Catholic schoolmates grew up to be either cops or criminals. He narrowly escaped both professions by volunteering to fight in Vietnam as a U.S. Marine... Read More

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