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New Year’s resolutions

Posted December 11, 2013 in Advice Column, Clive

With the holiday season winding down and 2014 upon us, it’s time to make your New Year’s resolutions. Our firm can’t help you stick to your diet or finally clean out the garage, but we can offer these suggestions:

Update your estate plan
Putting your legal affairs in order is important. It reduces the burdens on family and loved ones in the event of poor health or death. It can save time and expense. And it allows you to have control over how your assets pass. Every person should have three basic estate planning documents: a last will and testament, a durable financial power of attorney and a living will/health care power of attorney.

A will directs the distribution of your assets upon your death. Through the power of attorney, you give a another person the ability to make financial decisions for you should you become incapacitated. If you are too ill to speak for yourself, you can express your wishes and have your voice heard through a living will. This advance directive lets you detail your preferences for your medical care.

Make a list of key contacts
When you update your estate planning documents, you should also make a master list of important information. If you die or become incapacitated, your family will spend a great deal of time figuring out what assets you own and whom they should contact. List your accountant, insurance representative, business manager, bank or banker and attorney. Make sure you have the correct contact information for each advisor listed.

Review the title to your home  
You should review how you hold title to your home. When you purchased your house, the seller executed a deed. The deed contained important vesting information — the names on the title and the legal relationship between those titleholders.

If you are married, you probably want to ensure that both spouses are on title to the house. This may not be the case if the parties were married after one bought the house or if it is a second marriage. You also probably want to ensure that, if one titleholder were to die, the house would pass to the survivor. A simple review of who holds title and how title is held can prevent expensive and time-consuming problems later.

These are three quick resolutions that can save time and expense in the future. Happy 2014!

Information provided by Madina L. Nguyen, attorney for Abendroth and Russell Law Firm, 2560 73rd St., Urbandale, 278-0623,

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