Adult Responsibility

by J.C. Bailey

There are lots of things that a child shouldn’t have to worry about — food, shelter, a loving family and friends, a safe place to learn and play. Children shouldn’t contemplate their mortality or feel responsible to provide for themselves or others. As we grow up we should increasingly take responsibility for ourselves and others. As a spouse or parent, this means you prepare for the less-than-pleasant events of life. Unfortunately, there are some major gaps in how we adults prepare for life’s realities. We choose to ignore our mortality and our frailty and we let ourselves and our families down. We fail to act responsibly.

Think, Talk, Listen and Act

At about age 12 we develop the ability to think in the abstract. Later, marriage and family serve as a wake-up call to adult responsibility. Discuss how you will plan for the future with significant others. Talk to your spouse and other trusted family members about what would happen in the wake of death or disability. Listen to wise counsel as it applies to investments, personal finances, insurance and estate planning. Act on good advice and don’t put it off!

Grow Up

You have been blessed even in difficult economic times and you want to provide for those you love. So what is the game plan? I will not give you medical or investment advice, but I can tell you how to shore up your family’s protection in a hurry with simple estate planning. Have an experienced attorney provide you with updated documents including:

  1. A well-drafted will. This document will distribute your assets, put responsible people in charge of your finances and name guardians for your kids. Testamentary trusts can be ready to hold and distribute assets if beneficiaries are young, have special needs or for any other reason should not receive assets outright. An experienced estate planning attorney can prepare documents that fit your family’s needs.
  2. Powers of attorney. Avoiding a guardianship in case one of you becomes incapacitated is a top priority for any estate plan. Naming a person to do business on your behalf and to communicate with health care providers if you become unable to do so yourself is essential.
  3. Beneficiary designations. Never assume that an account or life insurance policy is properly designated. Your former spouse may still be on the paperwork, or the latest bank merger may have left you without a current signature card. Check frequently and update as needed.
  4. A living trust. While most people in Texas can live without one, you may be an exception. Invest a little time with a good lawyer and you can know for sure.

Take responsibility for you and your family’s future, and you can not only eat at the grown up table, you can sleep better at night.

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