You’ve heard it said that actions speak louder than words. So with Valentine’s Day around the corner, how will you show your loved ones that you care this year?
Will you choose flowers, candy or a card? None of these are bad gifts, but they are temporary. Flowers die and candy is quickly eaten. Even a card likely will get recycled after a few days on the mantel.
But how about a gift that lasts? We’ve got 10 suggestions that will show your loved ones just how much you care for them.
1. Set up a health-care directive that expresses your wishes for medical treatment in the event you are unable to make decisions for yourself, so that your spouse is not left agonizing over important medical decisions. Many people forget to plan for incapacity when they think about estate planning, but the truth is incapacity is much more likely than death.
2. Name your spouse, child or significant other as your representative in a durable power of attorney, so that your loved one doesn’t have to go to court to gain access to your assets to care for you if you are incapacitated.
3. Establish and fund a living trust that will pass your assets directly to your loved ones so that they do not have to suffer the expense and wait of probate court during their time of grief.
4. Plan for retirement and end-of-life care early, so that your children are not overly burdened with your care later in life. Remember, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 70 percent of retirees will require long-term care services.
5. Select a guardian for your minor children as part of your will so that your children are always with the right people, no matter what happens.
6. If you have a child with special needs, establish a special-needs trust, so that your child will have funds for expenditures such as transportation, education or entertainment without risking their eligibility for Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income programs.
7. Set up an incentive trust for your children to protect their inheritance until they are capable of managing it on their own so that they will have every opportunity in life.
8. Consider setting up a domestic-asset protection trust to protect your child’s inheritance from potential problems, such as a disgruntled ex-spouse.
9. If you and your beloved are not legally married, establish a domestic-partnership agreement, which explains the contractual legal rights and responsibilities of each partner and clarifies ownership and division of property in the event of a breakup or the death of your partner. Also, get proper estate planning in place so that your partner can manage your assets for you, carry out your health-care directions and be present at the hospital or doctor’s office with you if you are unable to speak for yourself.
10. Finally, if you already have set up a thorough estate plan, make sure you have gathered all your documents in one place and let your spouse, child or executor know where they are. If your loved ones cannot find your will and other financial documents, they will incur increased fees from lawyers, bankers and brokerage firms to track down the original documents. Show them you care by making sure they know where to look when the time comes.
Barid of Richmond Hill and Smith are co-founders of Savannah-based Smith Barid LLC, which specializes in estate planning and special-needs planning.