BIZTIPS - January 28, 2007

Biz Tips: A Little Preparation Goes a Long Way
Sunday, Jan. 28, 2007
By Art Hill

Few things focus our attention more than a family crisis. Some are just plain unavoidable - accidents, loss of income, illness. Some are relatively minor "challenges." But most if not all, can be made easier (or at least more bearable) by preparation.

Crisis preparation comes in many forms. In business it may mean a disaster plan. In personal life it may mean reducing debt and having a savings back-up. But remember the two certain things in life - death and taxes? Every year we prepare taxes, so why not take some time right now to be a little better prepared for death?

Of course, we're not talking about all the spiritual and emotional concerns about death, but good preparation can even help with those. The preparation we're talking about is simply having a written will and a Durable Power of Attorney, sometimes called a "living will."

Most of us are familiar with a standard written will. And yes, there are important benefits to having a will, even in community property states like Oregon and Washington. Ask anyone who had to wait through a probate period before being able to access important financial assets - cash to pay pending bills, etc.

There are plenty of websites about wills, but it's best to use them as guides, not do-it-yourself kits. Drawing up the terms of a will is not for amateurs, especially for business owners and others with a variety of assets. Talk with a couple of attorneys, and choose one who best suits your needs. Discuss your preferences for beneficiaries and who will be responsible for seeing that the terms of the will are carried out.

The Durable Power of Attorney is less well understood, but if you've experienced the long-term illness of a parent or other loved one, you know that someone close needs the authority to make decisions, some very serious, on behalf of that person. One good definition of a Durable Power of Attorney is simply "a legal instrument used to delegate legal authority to another." That can be a family member or other person you trust with your medical and financial decisions if you're not able to make them yourself.

Many of us are already aware of these basics, but we need to talk with our families and make some decisions to get the documents in place and the preparations done. Now's a good time for that. While you're preparing for taxes, take the extra step of preparing for the one other sure thing in life. That may be the most important preparation you've ever made.

Content © 2007 East Oregonian