Financial & estate planning

Find tips to help you with financial and estate planning


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My wife was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) over 9 years ago. As an attorney, accountant, and financial planner, I’ve spent a lot of time identifying specific steps I can take to help her and deal with the many ways MS has changed our lives. I hope you find the following tips helpful, many of which I've implemented for my own family. And remember, everyone's situation is different, so what worked for our family may not work for yours.

Estate planning is about planning for your life and those you love. It’s not only for the wealthy, and it’s not primarily about taxes or legal complexities.

Get involved

It’s important to be proactive about the estate and financial planning process. I suggest making lists of your next steps. Commit to completing your list in a timely manner. If you do not feel comfortable doing this yourself, it can be helpful to pass off the responsibility to others—like a lawyer, financial planner, or a website. This can help you get the items you need done, but you run the risk of not personalizing steps in the process. This process is about you and your loved ones. So try to be actively involved whenever you can.

Ask for help

If you get overwhelmed, I’d recommend asking for help from a family member, close friend, or work colleague. Many websites offer free financial calculators, budgeting and investment tools, and more. You can get a great start using these free Web resources, and then have someone you trust review what you’ve done (ideally someone with financial savvy). A “clean eye” looking over your planning is always useful. Doing as much legwork as possible ahead of time may provide a better and less costly result if you eventually consult a professional.

Plan for the future

In my experience, estate planning can be a long process. So it’s important to start early and give it the time and dedication it deserves. Based on my experience, here is an overview of what estate planning might entail.

  • Here are some important financial steps you might consider:
    • Investment plan to maximize your savings and retirement assets to get the most mileage and security out of your budget
    • Budget of expenses. This is an estimate of all your living expenses, income, and other sources of cash (interest on investments, government aid, gifts, etc). This key step could help you avoid running out of money
    • Automation of your finances will minimize potential problems in the event of a relapse. Wages, Social Security, and other payments can be automatically deposited to your checking account. Connect your bills to your credit card, so they can be paid automatically. Devoting less time and energy to your finances means you can focus on more important issues in your life
  • Here are a few important documents you might consider including in your estate planning:
    • Power of attorney designating someone to make financial decisions on your behalf if you can’t
    • If you become unable to communicate your choices, a living will could indicate your medical wishes, especially decisions pertaining to MS
    • Healthcare proxy appointing someone to make medical decisions if you can’t
    • Will that appoints guardians for minor children, designates a personal representative to manage your estate, and states how your assets should be distributed. This is typically all that most people consider estate planning to be, but it is only one small part. This part is the same for everyone, regardless of medical condition
  • Here are some additional thoughts you may find useful:
    • Property, casualty, and liability insurance can help make sure your financial assets are protected from risk
    • Life, disability, and long-term care coverage are important. Too often, someone recently diagnosed cancels his or her coverage to save money. I’d suggest talking to a professional before making a decision like this. He or she can best advise you on your financial future
    • Consider setting up a life care plan. When dealing with your finances, think about the steps you need to take to protect yourself and your family. Will you need help? Is there someone in your life who can help you? What will it cost? Can you afford it?

Estate and financial planning can make your life more secure and give you peace of mind. Take a broad perspective and stay actively involved in the process. Remember, it’s a process, not just a single document. Don’t try to do everything overnight. Set small goals and take a small step every week or month to get through the process with ease.



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