An injury or serious illness is not a planned event. You have to take time today to prepare for such unexpected events to protect your and your family’s financial security. Don’t be caught unprepared.
Discuss these important matters with your family:
1) Joint Bank Account(s). Although it’s common for married couples to have separate bank accounts, it’s better to have joint bank accounts. If not, in the event you become incapacitated or die, your spouse would not have access to your separate bank account and would be required to obtain court approval to access the account.
2) Life Insurance. Review your current income and expenses to determine the amount of life insurance needed to keep your family financially secure. Once you have obtained the necessary amount of life insurance, stay current with your payments.
3) Durable Power of Attorney. This document is important to have for both financial and health care decisions (such as the decision to remove life support). Unlike a general Power of Attorney, a Durable Power of Attorney is effective for the period of time after your injury or illness during which you are unable to make informed decisions for yourself. (See Straight Track – A Durable ???? for more information.)
4) Land Trust / Living Will. It may be beneficial for you to deed your home into a land trust and create a living will for remaining assets. These legal documents can keep your financial matters out of probate court.
5) Last Will And Testament. Having your last wishes clearly defined in a written document will help make a very difficult time for your family less stressful. Your Will can specify organ donation; cremation or burial; funeral / memorial arrangements, etc. A Will can also ensure that your assets are passed on to your survivors – spouse, siblings, children, grandchildren – as you desire.
6) Verify and Update Beneficiaries. After a marriage or divorce, many people forget to update their beneficiary information. Review your life insurance policies, retirement accounts, etc. and make sure the beneficiaries are named as you want them.
7) U.S. Railroad Retirement Board Benefits. As a railroader, if injured or sick, you may be eligible for sickness and/or disability benefits under the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board system. If you have more than 20 years of service, you may be entitled to an occupational disability annuity. A total and permanent disability is available for those who meet the qualifications. To review the qualifications of each of these benefits, visit the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board’s website at www.rrb.gov or contact Hoey & Farina.
8) Safe Keeping of Family Documents. All documents relating to your wills, trusts, insurance policies and bank accounts should be kept together in a safe place. Your family should know where to find the documents in the event you are incapacitated.
Take the time to discuss these matters with family members and loved ones. It may be difficult to do, but now is the time to do so, when you are capable of holding this discussion. Having your wishes clearly defined will ease the stress later put on your family members when an injury or illness happens.
I write this article based on my personal experience. I am a former railroader who was injured at work and now an attorney at Hoey & Farina battling a neuromuscular illness. You will never regret having this conversation with your family and being prepared for the unexpected.
I have not seen many of you at union meetings and events over the last year and a half due to my illness. I want to thank all of you for your thoughts, prayers and well wishes. As always, I am happy to answer your questions regarding an injury at work or how to be prepared for the unexpected.