Planning is something each and every one of us handles differently with much of it driven by our personality. There are numerous things we mean to do in life but never get around to. Unfortunately, when disaster strikes, it is too late to try and figure it out. The purpose of this article is to simply provide a checklist you can use to see if you have all your ducks in a row and are ready for what might lie ahead. Let’s start with the basics:
1. Do you have a will? The last thing you want is the government handling your post death affairs.
2. Do you have a living will? Not only is this a necessary legal document but it can really help your family in a time of need.
3. Do you have a durable power of attorney? This document appoints someone to make decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated.
4. Do you have or want pre-arranged funeral planning? While not fun to talk about, planning ahead can take a lot of stress off of your family.
5. Do you have life insurance? Now this is a complicated topic and salespeople can make it even more confusing. The first step is to determine why you are buying the life insurance. Is it for family protection, estate planning or just another wealth strategy? Young families need more protection than older families. Term insurance can help but then you may not have the coverage you might need for estate purposes. The best advice is to do some online reading and education prior to starting the purchasing process. Also, remember that life insurance is a long-term investment and evaluate company ratings prior to purchasing.
6. Do you have or want disability insurance? This is another product where cost increases as you grow older. If you buy disability insurance, make sure you understand the coverage and buy from a good company. Defining disability can be tricky.
7. Do you have or want long-term care insurance? Statistics tell us you are likely to need such care in your golden years.
8. Are your personal affairs, beneficiaries, etc., up-to-date? Your ex-wife might not be a good person to have your durable power of attorney. Things change and every five years or so you should review wills and other personal needs.
9. Is there a list of all of your passwords, financial accounts and other information available to your spouse or some other person you trust?
10. If you, a parent or grandparent live by yourself, does someone have a key to check on you in case you come up missing and are sick?
11. Do you have photos and/or a video of all your personal and business belongings stuck off site in a safe location? Remember that if your house or business burns down, you will need to prove what you owned and that can be a daunting task.
12. If you have an elderly parent or grandparent, does someone have access to their wills and financial information? While this can be a difficult subject, it is best to have this discussion while the elderly are of sound state of mind and health. Don’t be shy; they need your protection.
13. Do you have a retirement plan? As you age, do you continue to build all of your wealth in the business? Having your own building may make sense but what if you cannot sell it or it is zoned with limited use? Most business owners have a retirement pipe dream of selling their business assets, but businesses are difficult to sell. Diversification is a key retirement strategy.
14. Does your hospitalization policy have a cap or upper limit? Many individuals who go bankrupt due to medical expenses actually had coverage but it was not adequate.
15. For business, do you have offsite and automatic back-up for your computers? Have you ever tried to restore it to make sure it works? Do you have the most current virus software? Your computers will crash and when they do, make sure you have a back-up. Do not risk human error. Something you or an employee needs to remember is too risky; your system should be automatic.
16. Do you have personal information on each and every employee so that you can contact someone in case of an accident or death? This should include a simple written outline such as an office accident or death procedure.
17. Is your business adequately insured and has your insurance been reviewed by a professional? Look at your coverage first and then look at prices. Remember insurance is for disasters, not day-to-day fender benders. Do you have coverage for things such as employee embezzlement, employee vehicle usage and spills for vehicles with hazardous materials?
18. Do you have a relationship with a safety consultant? A workplace death will be automatically investigated and it is too late to start thumbing through the Yellow Pages.
19. Do you own your Internet webpage copyrights and have a separate back-up? If your provider goes broke, you don’t want your webpage to go with them.
20. If you became ill for a month, could your company take the hit? Is there enough emergency cash on hand? Can someone else temporarily run estimates or sign checks?
If you were to die tomorrow, have you laid out continuation instructions? Many business owners have spouses who have no idea of what goes on in the business. Who should that person use as an advisor?
I don’t think a business owner should be a worrywart, but you probably lead a busy life and are usually driven by operational issues. A quick review of the above items can help you avoid the unexpected.