Tips for the New Year

January is named for an old Roman god, Janus.  In their religion and mythology, he was the god of beginnings and endings, transitions and passages.  He was usually depicted as having two faces.  He could see into the past with one face and into the future with the other.  He symbolized change and transition, such as the progress of past to future.  January’s a good month to review what’s happened and prepare for what may come.  Life is change.  Marriage, divorce, new babies, adoptions, job and income changes, kids off to college, retirements, illness, and, yes, family deaths, are all events that may have happened that can prompt a reassessment of your needs, risks, and priorities going forward.  Here are some useful tips:

Estate Planning

  • Be sure to update your will to reflect all changes in your life situation. Make sure assets go where you want and that the person you chose to execute your wishes is still willing and able.  Of course, if you don’t already have will, the first order of business is to make one!
  • Make sure any advanced directives you’ve made about how you want certain health care decisions to be made if you’re unable still reflects your wishes. If you haven’t made one, consider doing so before it’s too late.
  • Consider creating a power of attorney for financial matters and for health care. And if you’ve already done so, make sure that the person you’ve named to take care of these issues if you can’t is still willing and able to do so.
  • Have there been changes, such as a special needs child, that should prompt you to consider creating a trust?
  • Remember that assets such as retirement plans, a 401(k), an IRA, etc., pass outside of a will. So make sure your named beneficiaries are current and appropriate.

Insurance Issues

  • Is your life insurance adequate for the needs of your survivors? Are the beneficiaries current?
  • Are your health insurance coverages appropriate for any changes to the family situation?
  • Do you need to make any changes to your homeowner’s policy to reflect remodeling, improvements, changes in value, new purchases, etc.?
  • Once a year, update your home inventory, especially for expensive items, so that you can document any losses if the worst happens.
  • Are your auto coverage limits enough and are all household drivers covered? It’s always good to get as much liability protection as you can afford.  But, one of the cheapest and most beneficial changes you can make to your policy is to maximize your uninsured motorist coverage.  This covers you when you’re in an accident caused by a driver who doesn’t have car insurance that covers the damages.  You’d be surprised at how little extra it costs to raise this coverage to the maximum.
  • Consider a personal liability umbrella policy to add an extra layer of protection to cover you if you face a substantial lawsuit that goes above and beyond your policy limits for home, auto, etc. This might be a good idea if you have an increased risk of liability, such as owning big dogs, recreational vehicles, a swimming pool, or trampoline.

Other Issues –

  • If you’re getting older, it’s a good idea to consider getting long-term care insurance while you’re still healthy. It can really save on premiums.
  • It’s a good idea to check your credit report at least once a year for suspicious activity, evidence of identity theft, and to fix any errors.
  • Check all your licenses and permits for the expiration dates and renewal requirements.
  • Review your online security to make sure anti-malware software is up-to-date. Consider periodically changing your passwords.
  • Test your smoke detectors and change the batteries.

There’s an old saying, “May all your troubles last as long as your New Year’s resolutions”.  We certainly wish that for all of you, but you’ll feel less stressed and be more secure if you can follow the example of Janus and take stock of changes in your life that require adjustments in the plans you’ve made and the precautions you taken for the future.  Happy New Year!

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