Prepare Your Estate for Your Survivors

Physician's Money Digest, March31 2005, Volume 12, Issue 6

Too often, today's doctors do notlook beyond retirement planningwhen considering thefuture. To ensure that familyfinancial needs and obligations are metafter death, a carefully crafted estate plancan be one of the greatest gifts you give toyour loved ones. An estate plan can providepeace of mind for you, ensure thatyour loved ones are able to carry out yourwishes, and also may help you reduceestate taxes and preserve more of yourhard-earned assets.

The first step physicians should takein developing an effective estate plan isto look at their current situation, knowwhere they are today, and determinewhat they want to do. While you'll certainlywant to consult with your legal,tax, and financial advisors, you can usethe following checklist now to start gettingthings organized:

• Write out a will so your wishes areclearly defined. Work with an attorney todraft and legalize a will that complieswith state and federal laws. Choose aresponsible person as the executor ofyour estate and keep your beneficiary designationsup to date.

• Keep the will in a place you have discussedwith your family and give a copy toyour attorney. A safe deposit box is not agood place to keep your will or other documentsyour family may need to accessright away. Sometimes the bank mayfreeze the contents of the box upon yourdeath and not allow your family toretrieve them.

• Consider determining guardianshipof your children and having a durablepower of attorney. Designate someone tomake decisions for you should youbecome incapacitated and provide advancemedical directives (ie, documentsthat outline medical treatments you doand do not desire in the event you areunable to convey them).

• Make a separate list of bequests. Ifyou decide to give away some of yourproperty, say a favorite antique table or apiece of jewelry, be sure to make a separatelist of bequests made outside of yourwill so that family members will notsearch in vain for the item or argue overwho should inherit it.

• Inform family about where importantfinancial and legal documents arekept. Make sure statements, forms, andother documents are organized and clearlylabeled. Documents that your survivorswill need include your will; birth certificate; marriage license; financial statements,including those from banks, brokeragehouses, and credit card and insuranceagencies; tax forms; unpaid creditand utility bills; titles on property andcars; mortgage payment information;auto, home, and life insurance policies;and Social Security card.

• Write out a list of the employee benefitsavailable to family members afterdeath. Keep statements for companyretirement plans and insurance policies.

• Tell family members about your prearrangedfuneral plans. Provide any documentsrelated to prearranged funeralcosts or burial plots you have purchased.If prepaying funeral costs, know exactlywhat is being purchased, what will happenif the funeral organization goes out ofbusiness, and the provisions made if thereare changes to any of the arrangements.

• Provide your advisors' contact information.Include the name, phone number,and address of accountants, attorneys,investment professionals, and insuranceagents to family members.

is vice president,

product marketing and services,

of MFS Investment Management

and product manager of

its Section 529 college savings

plans and retail retirement products.

He welcomes questions or comments at 866-637-7526, or visit www.mfs.com.

Bruce Harrington