It's the time of year for making New Year's resolutions. I'm not a huge fan of them, but if there is no other message I can spread across this world, it is that every family needs to take certain steps to protect themselves for the future and there's no time like the present to get started. Fail to file a tax return and you may pay some penalties, but fail to prepare a will, trust and other documents that dictate your desires, and it's simply too late when the time comes.As I've said many times, I'm not an attorney and this should not be considered legal advice, but rather a wake-up call from a friend. Whether you have kids, parents, or a pet, there are certain documents that you should have in place to ensure that your wishes are put in place at the time of your death. In a future article, I'll go into the difference between a will and a trust, but for the purpose of this discussion, we'll look at a basic will and the accompanying documents.All too often, I meet people who don't have a will because they find it too difficult to make tough choices. But, regardless of how tough these decisions are, it's better to make the choices yourself than to let the courts decide. If you die without a will in place, the court system will have the ultimate authority as to who will raise your children and how to divide your money and property. All it takes is one estranged relative to step up and swear an oath that you had promised them everything, and the court battle can become lengthy with a less than ideal resolution.So, what does it take to do a will? Hiring an attorney is always your best bet, but if that is the only thing stopping you from drafting the document, then you can visit online sites and prepare one yourself. A basic will has a few standard documents, including the will itself which details out who inherits your property and you who choose to raise your children. Other documents are the living will, financial power of attorney, and health care proxy. The living will is a list of your desires as to how you want your family to make decisions if you become terminally ill. The financial power of attorney and health care proxy are documents which specify who can make your financial and/or medical decisions in the event you aren't able to.The most important thing to know about a will and other documents is that any decision you make can be changed. So, don't hesitate to draft the documents just because you are concerned that the decisions will be permanent. There is no doubt that the right answer for your family may change at different stages in your life, but one thing is for certain, it's always better to have the proper documents in place than to avoid the difficult decisions and let the court decide for you. Whether you are starting from scratch or just revisiting planning you started years ago, there's no better time than now to make sure you have your affairs in order.Michele Knight, owner of Knight Accounting & Technology, is a CPA and QuickBooks ProAdvisor based in Dillon. For more info and to contact her, visit www.cpamichele.com.
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