Estate planning involves making a plan to take care of your family, home, and possessions after you’re gone. The following options are good to consider.
Life insurance can help make sure those who rely on you financially are secure. With life insurance, you pay a monthly premiumThe amount you pay for your health insurance every month. In addition to your premium, you may have to pay other costs for your health care, including a deductible, copayments, and coinsurance. to an insurance company, which then provides a payment to your designated beneficiary or beneficiaries after your passing. Life insurance varies from fairly inexpensive to very expensive. Visit this Life Insurance Guide to Policies & Companies for more information.
A trust or will helps you plan for what happens to your assets, such as savings and property, after your passing. A trust may allow a bit more control over your assets and how they are distributed. This may help your beneficiaries avoid some of the legal complications of a will. Establishing a trust or will typically involves some legal assistance and fees. Visit this Guide to Estate Planning from the AARP to learn more.
Indian trust property, such as trust land or an Individual Indian Monies account, has special rules on how that property can be passed on. A will may control who your property passes on to. Visit the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Trust Funds page for frequently asked questions.
If you need assistance with your Social SecurityA federal program that provides retirement, disability, and survivor benefits. Most Social Security benefits are based on taxes that you paid on your wages while working. or Supplemental Security IncomeA monthly benefit paid by Social Security to people with limited income who are disabled, blind, or age 65 and older. These are not the same as Social Security retirement or disability benefits. (SSI) and want to have someone designated to be your payee, see the Social Security page on Representative Payees for further information. You can also search the Social Security Office Locator webpage for your local office, or call (800) 772-1213 or TTY (800) 325-0778.
An advance directive is a legal arrangement that establishes your preferences regarding your own medical care. The advance directiveA legal document that says what type of treatments you want or don’t want in case you can’t speak for yourself. For example, whether or not you want life support. Also called a “medical directive” or “living will.” is to be followed by your caregivers and healthcare providers if you are unable to make decisions for yourself. Visit the AARP’s Advance Directive Forms page and click on your state to download an advance directive form and instructions.
A living willA legal document that says what type of treatments you want or don’t want in case you can’t speak for yourself. For example, whether or not you want life support. Also called a “medical directive” or “advance directive.” is a legal document that describes your preferences for your medical care, including the types of medical treatments that you would or would not like to be used, such as resuscitation if your heart stops beating or ventilation if you can’t breathe on your own, and how you would like your comfort and pain to be managed.
Power of attorney legally designates a person to make medical decisions for you if you are not able to. Called “durable power of attorney” or “medical power of attorney,” the person is your healthcare proxy, agent, surrogate, or representative. It’s a good idea to have someone to be your healthcare proxy even if you have a living will, in case something unexpected happens. Your healthcare proxy is someone that you trust to make decisions and do what you want, even if others disagree.
Do not resuscitate (DNR) and do not intubate (DNI) orders should be included in your medical records, even if you do not have a living will. They tell your healthcare providers that you do not want to be resuscitated, meaning have your heart re-started, if it stops beating, or intubated by having a breathing tube inserted if you can’t breathe on your own. If you do have a living will, it should include whether or not you want to be resuscitated or intubated.
A Medical Order for Scope of Treatment (MOST) is a very effective tool for people who know exactly what they do and do not want at the end of life. The MOST document is printed out on bright green card stock, reviewed and signed by a doctor, and posted prominently in your home so family and caregivers know it is there. You can download a MOST form from the New Mexico Department of Health and visit the Department of Health website for instructions for filling it out.
It is important to have conversations with your healthcare providers, family and friends about these issues and your wishes while you are able to. Download the New Mexico Aging and Long-term Services Department’s Person-Centered Planning Tool or the AARP’s Planning Guide for Families for help with these conversations.
Legal Planning Assistance
You do not have to hire a lawyer to get an advance directiveA legal document that says what type of treatments you want or don’t want in case you can’t speak for yourself. For example, whether or not you want life support. Also called a “medical directive” or “living will.” or to designate someone as your healthcare proxy, but you do need to have your documents witnessed and notarized. Also, remember that if you move to a different state, you must change your documents to meet the laws of your new state.
You can get free legal advice from the New Mexico State Bar Association at (800) 876-6657 or from New Mexico Legal Aid at (833) 545-4357. New Mexico Legal Aid also offers legal clinics and workshops in counties and cities across the state. You can download a complete list of locations and contact information. Their Native American Program Office is located in Santa Ana Pueblo at 51 Jemez Canyon Dam Road, Suite 102 in Bernalillo, New Mexico. Contact them at (505) 867-3391.
For help with federal and Tribal rules concerning trust property, you can also call the University of New Mexico Southwest Indian Law Clinic at (505) 277-5265.
For help reviewing your options, you can speak to a Resource Options Coordinator at the New Mexico Aging and Disability Resource Center. Call (800) 432-2080 or TTY (505) 476-4937.
DNA People’s Legal Services offers legal assistance for Navajo Nation and Hopi members. Visit their website to find an office near you.
The Farmington Indian Center offers notary, copy, and fax services.
Visit Colorado Legal Services to find an office near you.
Visit Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid for assistance. Call (956) 447-4800.