woman unpacking boxes

How to Move Across the Country

Moving can be stressful. Making sure your breakables are packed so they don’t actually break, deciding on a DIY move or hiring professional movers, managing security deposits or down payments on both ends of the move—moving cross country could stress even the most relaxed people. There are some things to keep in mind, though, to make the process go as smooth as possible.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

The three Rs aren’t just good environmental stewardship, they’re essential for planning a big move. Think of it this way: Is it really necessary to pack up and ship the six half-empty conditioner bottles under the bathroom sink?

Moving is a great time to embrace your inner minimalist and get rid of absolutely everything that’s no longer needed. Not only does minimizing now help cut down on moving costs, but it also helps avoid filling up the new place with meaningless stuff.

Instead of just throwing away unwanted goods, trying to find them a new home might give them a second life. Big-ticket furniture items can be sold online or in consignment stores to raise a bit of extra money for the moving fund, or they can be donated to a thrift store.

Professional clothes that are no longer worn could help someone if donated to a job readiness program. Animal shelters often take donations of old sheets and blankets to make cuddly beds for their charges.

Local freecycle or buy-nothing groups can also be great places to unload unwanted home goods—you never know who has a use for those five dish strainers you’ve somehow accumulated.

Pack Like a Pro

Once you’ve decluttered, it’s time to get packing. Resist the urge to throw everything into a medium-sized box and call it a day. Taking the time to pack up your home like a professional will make moving—and the subsequent unpacking—a whole lot easier.

First, gather your packing supplies. You’ll want to make sure you have plenty of boxes of varying sizes, several rolls of packing tape, large black markers, scissors, a utility knife, and several types of packing materials, like old newspaper, bubble wrap, and even old rags or sheets.

To pack like a pro, start with non-essentials. The last thing you want is to realize that you accidentally packed all your clean underwear two weeks before you plan on leaving. Seasonal home goods, out-of-season clothes, and rarely used kitchen goods are a good place to start.

Make sure to wrap all fragile items in paper or bubble wrap before putting them in boxes. Plates should be packed next to each other vertically, which helps prevent breaking . Likewise, adding a layer of crumbled newsprint or packing paper on the bottom of your box can also help prevent breakage.

Aim to keep each box light enough to lift alone, with heavy items on the bottom and lighter items on top. Don’t forget to pack like items together—no one wants to arrive at their new home and find their dishes somehow got packed next to the cat litter box.

Choose Your Mode of Transportation

One of the most challenging parts of planning a cross-country move can be planning the actual transportation. Will you fly, and ship your cargo? Hire a moving company to pack everything up and unpack it at your new place? Rent a cargo trailer and make it into a cross-country road trip?

Each option has its benefits and its drawbacks, but choosing the right mode of transportation can help keep your move as stress-free as possible and, depending on the mode you choose, could help you keep your budget intact.

The easiest, and usually the most expensive, option is to hire a moving company and let them take care of the details. Using a moving company for a cross-country move can cost almost $5,000 on average, and that can increase with the addition of fuel costs, fees, and insurance.

The benefit to paying more upfront is that you are only responsible for getting yourself and your family to your new home. The moving company takes care of the rest, which can be a significant relief if you’re short on time or are looking at the prospect of trying to maneuver your couch up three flights of stairs in your new apartment building.

Some moving companies will send someone out to take a look at how much stuff you plan to move to give a more accurate cost estimate. They may also estimate the weight of the load and calculate how far you plan on moving when giving you the final estimate.

If you’re hiring movers, one way to cut down on cost is to pack and unpack your stuff yourself. Asking for personal recommendations, reading online reviews, and getting a few different quotes before deciding on a moving company can help you get the best company for your needs.

If hiring movers isn’t in the budget, there are still plenty of options to ensure your beloved record collection arrives safely across the country. If you don’t have any big furniture to move, you may be able to get away with shipping your goods and hopping on a plane with just your essentials.

Shipping your goods as freight can be a budget-friendly option, whether you send them via mail, train, or even take a few boxes as checked baggage on the flight.

The downside is that unless the boxes are traveling on your flight with you, you may end up waiting a while for them at your destination, and, like all mail, there is always a chance things could be lost or damaged during the journey.

Many movers choose to take the DIY route and rent a cargo truck or trailer to haul their worldly possessions. This can be a budget-friendly option, but remember that for all the cost savings, you’ll be putting in a lot more hard work.

You’ll need to pack and load all your boxes and furniture into the trailer yourself. On top of packing, you’ll also have to be comfortable driving the cargo truck or trailer the thousands of miles that lie between you and your destination.

Budgeting for Your Move

Still wondering how to move across the country without going broke? There’s no doubt about it—moving is expensive. And don’t forget to include the additional costs of moving, like a down payment on your new place, or first and last month’s rent, and the cost of setting up your new home with all the essentials.

On top of that, moving often coincides with changing jobs, which may mean that you have a few weeks where you are sorely missing your paycheck. All of this makes moving across the country financially draining for many people.

If you know you’ll be moving in the future, saving up now and using any money you make selling unwanted goods can be a good way to build up your moving fund.

Some people, however, realize they need a little more help in covering the upfront costs of moving across the country. A personal loan might be able to help cover that cost without affecting the rest of your finances.

The Takeaway

For some people, there may be a few potential benefits of using an unsecured personal loan rather than a credit card to fund moving costs. A personal loan may offer lower interest rates than many credit cards do and, unlike a credit card, a personal loan is not revolving credit. That means the loan is for a set amount of money and paid back over a fixed period of time.

Lenders usually review an applicant’s credit report, among other personal financial factors, to determine the loan term and rates they qualify for. Some lenders disburse loan funds within a few days. This means that you can spend more time exploring your new home base and less time stressing about paying for your move.

About to embark on a major move? Look into a relocation loan with SoFi to help finance your new adventure!



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SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp. or an affiliate (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

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Does Everyone Need an Estate Plan?

Does Everyone Need an Estate Plan?

The short answer is, yes, estate planning can be a smart move for everyone.

Though it’s not much fun to think about what will happen to your loved ones after you are gone, doing some estate planning early on, and readjusting it as needed throughout your lifetime, can help you prepare for the future and protect the people you care about.

One of the biggest reasons why is that without an estate plan, any assets you have may not go to the people you would have wanted to have them. And, if you have children, you won’t have a say in who becomes their guardian.

Not having an estate plan can also create a lot of legal and administrative headaches for your family members and friends.

Contrary to what many people assume, you don’t have to be old, rich, or have children to benefit from making a financial plan for after you are gone.

Read on to learn what estate planning is all about and what you can do to get started.

What Is an Estate Plan?

Estate planning is deciding in advance and in writing who will get your assets and money after your death or in the event that you become incapacitated.

It can be as simple as designating certain people as your beneficiaries on your financial accounts. Estate planning also typically includes creating a will. It can also include setting up trusts and creating a living will that can be used should you ever become incapacitated.

Your “estate” is simply everything you own—money and assets, including your home and your car—at the time of your death.

Your debts are also part of your estate—anything you owe on credit cards and loans may have to be paid off first by your estate before any further money or assets are distributed to your heirs.

Estate planning is not entirely about money, though. It may also leave instructions for how your incapacitation or death may be handled.

For instance, you may not want to be kept on a life-support system if you were in a coma. You may want to be cremated instead of buried. These instructions can be included in your estate planning.

An estate plan may also include choosing a guardian for your children and any specific wishes regarding how you want them to be raised.

The Importance of an Estate Plan

An estate plan can be beneficial no matter what your age, income, assets, or family status. Below are some key reasons why you may want to consider estate planning.

You Decide Where You Assets Will Go

If you don’t have beneficiaries named in an estate plan, the courts will determine who gets your assets. That might be your closest kin (possibly someone you wouldn’t want to have your inheritance), and if you have none, the state may take those assets.

Likely you have someone who you would prefer to leave assets to, and if not, you can choose a charity.

You Have Children

If you have children, it’s important for you to consider how you want them cared for if you and your spouse were to pass away, and who you would want to be their guardians.

Your estate plan can even outline how you hope to pass on aspects of your life such as religion, education, and other values. You can also set up a trust so that your children receive an inheritance once they are 18.

It Can Help Avoid Legal Headaches

If you have beneficiaries you want to leave your assets to, having an estate plan and/or will can minimize the legal headache your loved ones have to deal with.

Without any kind of estate plan, a probate court may have to determine how assets are divided, and this can take months or years, delaying those assets making it to the people you want to have them.

It Can Help Prevent Family Conflict

Your family members may all get along well, but it’s a good idea to write a will so that things remain harmonious.

Regardless of the size of your estate, some careful estate planning can help prevent your family members from arguing over who gets what, whether it’s a small tiff or a full-on lawsuit.

It Can Ease the Financial Burden of Final Costs

Many people don’t consider planning their own funerals, and that may leave an emotional and financial burden on their loved ones.

A funeral can cost, on average, around $7,000, and a cremation about $6,000. Consider whether your loved ones would be in a financial situation to be able to afford to cover that expense, plus any others involved with your final arrangements.

Taking these final costs into consideration can be a part of your estate plan. You might decide to set aside funds to cover your funeral expenses.

You can do this with a “payable on death” account, which can be set up through your bank and allows the designated beneficiaries to receive the money in the account when you pass away.

Or, you might elect to purchase a prepaid funeral plan, which sends money directly to the funeral home to cover a casket, floral arrangements, service, and other aspects of your funeral. You may want to keep in mind, however, that prepaying for a funeral can lead to a loss of money if the funeral home goes out of business.

What’s Included in an Estate Plan

While your estate plan will be unique to your own situation, there are a few things you might consider including.

A Will

Your will is the actual document that outlines who your beneficiaries are and what they will receive upon your passing. It may also identify a guardian if you have young children.

This is also where you can identify the executor, who will carry out the terms of your will.

Life Insurance Policy

Having this policy information with the rest of your estate plan makes it easy for your family to file a claim with your insurance company upon your death.

A Living Will

Death is not the only situation in which you may be unable to make a decision. You may be alive yet incapacitated, and in this scenario it can be difficult for your loved ones to know what you want them to do.

A living will can be highly valuable because it lays out how you want to be treated during your end-of-life care, including specific treatments to take or refrain from taking.

A living will is often combined with a durable power of attorney, a legal document that can allow a surrogate to make decisions on behalf of the incapacitated individual.

Letter of Intent

This letter is directed to your executor, and provides instructions for carrying out your wishes in regards to your will, and possibly also funeral arrangements.

A Trust

If you have a sizable inheritance for your beneficiaries and don’t want them to have access to all the funds all at once, you can establish a trust with rules about how and when they receive the money.

For example, you could stipulate that your children receive a fixed allowance each month until they graduate college or get married, or that they use the money for college.

Key Account Information

You might also consider providing account numbers and passwords for bank accounts, investment accounts, and other important accounts that your family will need access to. This can make life much simpler for your loved ones.

The Takeaway

Whether you have children and want to ensure they’re taken care of, or you’re single and would like your assets to go to certain people or a charity you care about, it’s wise to have a basic estate plan.

Having a financial plan in place in the event that you pass away or become incapacitated can protect surviving family members from unnecessary financial, legal, and emotional stress.

Not sure where or how to start estate planning? SoFi Members can get help at a 10% from Trust & Will, which also offers will and guardianship estate plans.

See how SoFi can simplify the estate planning process today.


Ladder policies are issued in New York by Allianz Life Insurance Company of New York, New York, NY (Policy form # MN-26) and in all other states and DC by Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America, Minneapolis, MN (Policy form # ICC20P-AZ100 and # P-AZ100). Only Allianz Life Insurance Company of New York is authorized to offer life insurance in the state of New York. Coverage and pricing is subject to eligibility and underwriting criteria. SoFi Agency and its affiliates do not guarantee the services of any insurance company. The California license number for SoFi Agency is 0L13077 and for Ladder is OK22568. Ladder, SoFi and SoFi Agency are separate, independent entities and are not responsible for the financial condition, business, or legal obligations of the other. Social Finance, Inc. (SoFi) and Social Finance Life Insurance Agency, LLC (SoFi Agency) do not issue, underwrite insurance or pay claims under LadderLifeTM policies. SoFi is compensated by Ladder for each issued term life policy. SoFi offers customers the opportunity to reach Ladder Insurance Services, LLC to obtain information about estate planning documents such as wills. Social Finance, Inc. (“SoFi”) will be paid a marketing fee by Ladder when customers make a purchase through this link. All services from Ladder Insurance Services, LLC are their own. Once you reach Ladder, SoFi is not involved and has no control over the products or services involved. The Ladder service is limited to documents and does not provide legal advice. Individual circumstances are unique and using documents provided is not a substitute for obtaining legal advice.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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What is a PPO plan?

What is a PPO Plan?

A preferred provider organization (PPO) is a type of health care plan that offers lower out-of-pocket costs to members who use doctors and other providers who are part of the plan’s network.

These preferred providers have signed onto the network at a lower negotiated rate than they might charge outside of the network.

PPOs also offer members the flexibility to see providers outside of the plan’s network, although they will most likely pay more in out-of-pocket costs to do so.

To learn more about PPOs, and how this type of plan compares to other health insurance options, read on.

How Does PPO Insurance Work?

When you join a PPO health plan, you’re joining a managed care network that includes primary care doctors, specialists, hospitals, labs, and other healthcare professionals. PPO networks tend to be large and geographically diverse.

If you see a preferred provider, you will likely pay a copay, or you might be responsible for a coinsurance payment (after you meet the plan’s deductible).

While you are free to see any health care provider whether or not they are in the PPO network, if you see a provider outside of the network, you may pay significantly more in out-of-pocket costs.

In return for flexibility, large networks, and low in-network cost sharing, PPO plans typically charge higher premiums than many other types of plans.

PPOs are a common, and often a popular, choice for employer-sponsored health insurance.

What are the Costs of Going Out of the PPO’s Network?

If you see a provider who is not part of the plan’s network, you will likely be expected to bear more of the cost. PPOs typically use what’s called a “usual, customary and reasonable” (UCR) fee schedule for out-of-network services.

Insurers calculate UCR fees based on what doctors in the area are charging for the same service you were provided.

If your doctor charges more than what your insurance company determines to be usual, customary, and reasonable, you most likely will be charged for the difference between the amount charged for the service and the amount covered by your insurer.

Depending on where you live and the service you received, this difference could be significant. It may also come as a surprise to policyholders who assume their medical costs will be covered and don’t fully understand the distinction between in-network and out-of-network providers.

A good way to avoid surprise charges with a PPO (or any health plan) is to talk to your provider and your insurer before you receive treatment about the total cost and what will be covered.

How PPOs Compare to Other Types of Health Care Plans

PPO plans are most often compared with health maintenance organizations (HMOs), another common type of managed care health plan.

HMOs typically offer lower premiums and out-of-pocket costs than PPOs in exchange for less flexibility.

Unlike a PPO, HMO members typically must choose a primary care physician from the plan’s network of providers. Care from providers out of the HMO network is generally not covered, except in the case of an emergency.

Also unlike a PPO, an HMO’s network of providers is usually confined to a specific local geographic area.

Another key difference between these two types of plans: HMO members typically must first see their primary care doctor to get a referral to a specialist. With PPOs, referrals are not usually required.

PPOs are also often compared to point of service (POS) plans.

POS plans are generally a cross between an HMO and a PPO. As with a PPO, POS members generally pay less for care from network providers, but may also go out of network if they desire (and potentially pay more).

Like an HMO, POS plans require a referral from your primary care doctor to see a specialist.

PPOs (as well as HMOs and POS plans) are very different from high deductible health plans, or HDHPs.

HDHPs charge a high deductible (what you would have to pay for health care costs before insurance coverage kicks in).

This means that you would need to pay for all of your doctor visits and other medical services out of pocket until you meet this high deductible. In return for higher deductibles, these plans usually charge lower premiums then other insurance plans.

You can combine a HDHP with a tax-advantaged health savings account (HSA). Money saved in an HSA can be used to pay for qualified medical expenses.

HDHPs are generally best for relatively healthy people who don’t see doctors frequently or anticipate high medical costs for the coming year.

What are the Pros and Cons of PPO Insurance?

As with all health insurance options. PPOs have both advantages and disadvantages. Here are a few to consider.

Advantages of PPOs

•  Flexibility. PPO members typically do not have to see a primary care physician for referrals to other health care providers, and they may see any doctor they choose (though they may pay more for out-of-network providers).
•  Lower costs for in-network care. Out-of-pocket costs, such as copays and coinsurance, for care from in-network providers can be lower than some other types of plans.
•  Large provider networks. PPOs usually include a large number of doctors, specialists, hospitals, labs, and other providers in their networks, spanning across cities and states. As a result, network coverage while traveling or for college student dependents can be easier to access than with more restricted plans.

Disadvantages of PPOs

•  High premiums. In return for flexibility, PPO members can expect to pay higher monthly premiums than they may find with other types of plans.
•  High out-of-pocket costs for out-of-network care. Depending on where you live, the treatment you receive, and how your insurer calculates “usual, customary and reasonable” fees, you may find you are responsible for a large portion of the bill when you receive care outside of the PPOs network.
•  Might be more insurance than you need. If you rarely see doctors and wouldn’t mind potentially switching doctors, you may be able to save money by going with an HMO or a HDHP.

The Takeaway

PPOs are a popular type of health plan because of the flexibility, ease of use, and wide range of provider choices they offer.

Patients with a chronic disease or other illness who have a close relationship with their doctors and specialists may find a PPO is the most appealing choice because they can likely continue to see their current doctors.

PPO networks tend to be large and varied enough to include a patient’s existing doctors. If not, members still have the option of going out-of-network and receiving at least some coverage from a PPO.

PPO members pay for this flexibility, however. PPOs typically come with higher premiums, along with extra costs associated with out-of-network care. That can be prohibitive for many consumers.

Your employer’s benefits department or an experienced insurance agent or broker can help you compare PPOs to other types of health care plans and determine which choice is right for your health care needs and your budget.

Before choosing a plan, it can also be helpful to track your spending for a few months to see how much you are currently spending on medical care. This can help you ballpark costs for the coming year and make it easier to compare plans.

You can do this by saving all of your medical receipts and logging them with pen and paper. Or, you could use a budgeting app, such as SoFi Relay.

SoFi Relay allows you to see all of your accounts on one mobile dashboard and makes it easy to categorize and track your medical (and all your other) monthly spending.

Learn how SoFi Relay can help you manage your healthcare spending today.


SoFi’s Relay tool offers users the ability to connect both in-house accounts and external accounts using Plaid, Inc’s service. When you use the service to connect an account, you authorize SoFi to obtain account information from any external accounts as set forth in SoFi’s Terms of Use. SoFi assumes no responsibility for the timeliness, accuracy, deletion, non-delivery or failure to store any user data, loss of user data, communications, or personalization settings. You shall confirm the accuracy of Plaid data through sources independent of SoFi. The credit score provided to you is a Vantage Score® based on TransUnion™ (the “Processing Agent”) data.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.
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Choosing an Individual Health Insurance Plan

Choosing an Individual Health Insurance Plan

Buying health insurance can be intimidating when you’re not under an employer’s umbrella. The various types of health insurance plans, the wide range of costs, and the numerous ways to research and buy a policy can make the process daunting at first.

Here’s a guide to help you sort through the basics to find the plan that’s right for both your budget and your health needs.

What Is Individual Health Insurance?

The term “individual health insurance” is a little confusing. In most cases it means a policy purchased by an individual. But individual insurance also includes family coverage. Depending on your situation, you could be buying an individual health care plan that covers just you, or your spouse and dependents as well.

You may find yourself shopping for private health insurance for you and your family if you no longer have employer-based insurance.

Young adults aging out of coverage under their parents’ plan may also need to buy individual health insurance.

Types of Individual Health Insurance Plans

When you start your search for health insurance, prepare for alphabet soup—HMO, PPO, HDHP. Individual insurance comes in a lot of forms.

Choosing the right coverage for you starts with determining which type of plan best meets your needs. Here’s a quick look at the different types of health plans available and who might benefit most from each.

HMO

These plans limit coverage to health care providers who are under contract with the health maintenance organization.
You usually need to have a referral from your primary care doctor to receive care from a specialist or other provider in the HMO network.

Care from providers out of the HMO network is typically not covered, except in the case of an emergency and for routine services with an obstetrician/gynecologist. HMO coverage is usually confined to specific geographic areas.

Some insurers offer a similar setup called exclusive provider organization plans, with coverage only if you use doctors, specialists, or hospitals in the plan’s network, with the exception of emergencies.

May be best for: People looking for the lowest cost plans, who don’t need coverage outside their geographic area and who don’t mind changing doctors to stay in the HMO network.

PPO

Members of preferred provider organization plans pay less when they use network providers. Care outside the network is covered but at an additional cost. No referrals are necessary.

Some insurers offer a similar type of plan called point of service. As with a PPO, plan members pay less for care from network providers, but they are free to go outside the network. Like an HMO, they must use a network primary care doctor and get a referral to see a specialist.

May be best for: Individuals who can afford higher premiums and perhaps higher out-of-pocket costs in return for the freedom to see specialists and other providers outside the network.

High-Deductible Health Plan

This is a health plan that charges a deductible of $1,400 or more for an individual or $2,800 or more for a family for 2021. A deductible is the amount you pay out of pocket for health care costs before insurance coverage kicks in.

In return for higher deductibles, these plans usually charge significantly lower premiums. (Preventive care is usually covered at 100% when you stay in the network.)

You can combine a high-deductible health plan with a tax-advantaged health savings account. Contributions to an HSA are tax-free and can be used to pay for qualified medical expenses.

May be best for: People who don’t use a lot of health care services and are willing to risk high out-of-pocket costs, and those who are looking to start an HSA to save for future health care expenses.

Catastrophic

These low-premium, very-high-deductible health plans are designed, as the name implies, to cover only dire circumstances.

The plans cover the essential benefits defined by the Affordable Care Act, though there may be limits on preventive care and the number of covered visits to a primary care provider.

Deductibles are, well, high: in 2021, $8,550 for an individual, according to healthinsurance.org.

The plans will help if you become seriously ill or are injured, but you’ll pay out of pocket for many other health care costs.

Catastrophic plans are only available to people under age 30 and to people with a hardship or affordability exemption. They can be purchased on healthcare.gov or directly from carriers.

May be best for: People in between coverage plans looking for a short-term buffer against large medical bills should an accident or serious illness occur. These plans are generally not viewed as suitable for anyone looking for traditional health care coverage.

Short-Term Health Insurance

Short-term plans are designed to provide temporary emergency coverage when you are between health plans or outside enrollment periods. Depending on what state you live in, short-term coverage can last up to 12 months, sometimes with the possibility of renewal for up to 36 months.

Short-term plans are not compliant with the Affordable Care Act and therefore do not have to provide essential coverage such as preventive, maternity, and mental health care and treatment for preexisting conditions.

Deductibles and out-of-pocket costs can be significantly higher than those of traditional health plans.

May be best for: Like catastrophic insurance, this is generally considered suitable only for people looking for stopgap coverage while they are otherwise uninsured.

Choosing an Individual Health Plan

It’s best to consider a number of factors beyond the premium price to determine the most affordable choice that meets your needs.

Consider how you typically use health care: Are you generally healthy and only need to go to the doctor for annual physicals? Or are you treating a chronic condition that requires consistent care?

It might be a good idea to try to project what the coming year will look like in terms of how you use health care. From there you can take into account what’s most important to you, including costs, providers, and pharmaceutical coverage.

Some questions to possibly ask as you compare plans:

What would my cost-sharing be? This includes out-of-pocket costs such as deductibles, copays, and coinsurance.

Does the plan have an annual or lifetime limit on how much I’d spend out of pocket? Every plan that is ACA compliant must publish a summary of benefits and coverage that you can check to see how the plan covers costs. In addition, most insurers and health care organizations have online tools that can help you compare plan costs.

Are my doctors in the plan’s network? You can check with the insurers or directly with your providers. If your providers are not in the network of the least expensive plans, ask yourself what is most important to you: lower costs and changing doctors or higher costs and keeping current providers.

Are my medications covered? Most plans have a formulary, a list of drugs that are fully or partly covered under the plan. You can access the plan’s formulary on the insurers’ websites. The lists change from year to year.

An experienced agent or broker who sells plans that are on the Health Insurance Marketplace® and off the exchange can help you compare the broad range of plans to determine which one is right for your needs. (Agents and brokers often get a commission from insurance companies for selling plans, but the customer does not pay extra for enrolling with them.)

Or you can shop on your own for exchange plans and determine if you qualify for premium subsidies on healthcare.gov . You can compare off-exchange plans through one of the many online brokers or directly with insurers.

The Takeaway

Shopping for an individual health insurance policy requires time, knowledge, and patience. But armed with the basics and some tools, you’ll have the best chance to find coverage that will meet your health care needs.

If you’re thinking about how to protect your loved ones in the future, you might consider life insurance options with SoFi Protect. SoFi and Ladder offer plans to cover you for your own unique needs. It’s quick to set up and you can get your quote in minutes.

Find your rate on life insurance plans with SoFi Protect.


Ladder policies are issued in New York by Allianz Life Insurance Company of New York, New York, NY (Policy form # MN-26) and in all other states and DC by Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America, Minneapolis, MN (Policy form # ICC20P-AZ100 and # P-AZ100). Only Allianz Life Insurance Company of New York is authorized to offer life insurance in the state of New York. Coverage and pricing is subject to eligibility and underwriting criteria. SoFi Agency and its affiliates do not guarantee the services of any insurance company. The California license number for SoFi Agency is 0L13077 and for Ladder is OK22568. Ladder, SoFi and SoFi Agency are separate, independent entities and are not responsible for the financial condition, business, or legal obligations of the other. Social Finance, Inc. (SoFi) and Social Finance Life Insurance Agency, LLC (SoFi Agency) do not issue, underwrite insurance or pay claims under LadderLifeTM policies. SoFi is compensated by Ladder for each issued term life policy. SoFi offers customers the opportunity to reach Ladder Insurance Services, LLC to obtain information about estate planning documents such as wills. Social Finance, Inc. (“SoFi”) will be paid a marketing fee by Ladder when customers make a purchase through this link. All services from Ladder Insurance Services, LLC are their own. Once you reach Ladder, SoFi is not involved and has no control over the products or services involved. The Ladder service is limited to documents and does not provide legal advice. Individual circumstances are unique and using documents provided is not a substitute for obtaining legal advice.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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Important Estate Planning Documents to Know

Important Estate Planning Documents to Know

For many, a strategy for estate planning is a must-have at any stage in life.

This ensures that your wishes on how to handle your wealth, health, and children are carried out after your demise or a medical emergency that leaves you incapacitated.

Having the proper documents in place makes it easier, faster, and less expensive for your wishes to be executed.

Here are the most common—and important—estate planning documents to know about, create, and routinely update throughout your life.

Typical Estate Planning Documents

Last Will and Testament

The foundation of your estate planning checklist is your last will and testament. This legal document essentially lets you list your instructions on what to do with your assets after you die.

Your will also names an executor, who is the individual you choose to carry out your final wishes. It should be someone you trust and who can handle major financial responsibilities, since they’ll be tasked with navigating both your family and financial institutions.

Other information in your will includes who will take possession of your assets that don’t have a beneficiary assigned. You can also outline your funeral preferences and other final wishes.

If you die without a will, the state takes over and names a representative on your behalf to handle the distribution of your property. The court could name your spouse or close family member to handle the job, or it could choose a public trustee if no one agrees to the job.

The probate process takes a long time, and your family typically won’t be able to access any of your accounts until an executor is named. That’s why it’s best to get started on your estate planning documentation as soon as possible.

Letter of Intent

A letter of intent is another component of your estate planning checklist that allows you to leave an explanation to your loved ones. You can compose an emotional letter if you want, or stick to information that will make the transition easier on your family.

The letter of intent is a good place to list details like your bank accounts, passwords, and other important information your executor or family members may need. For instance, you may have joint accounts with your spouse. But if you’re the one who manages that money or is responsible for certain shared bills, you can explain how to handle those ongoing expenses moving forward.

Also include the physical locations of important documents and assets, like property titles, jewelry, or art.

Beneficiary and Guardianship Designations

Your will documents should include designations for account beneficiaries and, if applicable, a guardianship for any minor children.

Some financial accounts require that you list a beneficiary; others do not. A standard checking account probably doesn’t require you to list a beneficiary, but you can likely volunteer to add one.

IRAs and life insurance do require you to add a beneficiary, regardless of the size of your account or policy.

While you do need to fill out the paperwork directly with the financial institution, you can also list your beneficiaries in your will documents to make it easier for your executor to access everything. Be sure to update beneficiaries if major life events occur, like divorce, the death of a spouse, or a birth.

Speaking of babies, you also need to designate a guardian for any dependents. You’ll need to include their names and birthdates and explicitly name the person or persons you wish to be their guardian should you die. If you’re in a two-parent household, the guardianship only goes into effect if both parents die.

Each state has its own way of handling minors if you pass away without naming a guardian. The court will likely pick a close family member to serve in the role, but it’s always better to make the decision on your own—especially if you have tense family dynamics.

Advance Medical Directive

An advance medical directive is a way to clarify your health care wishes in case you become medically incapacitated.

As part of this legal document, you can first name a durable power of attorney for health care. This basically hands over decision making to the person of your choice. It’s best to have conversations before any medical issues arise so they understand how you would prefer to move forward in certain health situations.

You can also include instructions for specific treatments in your advance medical directive. In what is known as a living will, you can list your stance on individual treatments and how your health care professionals should move forward in each scenario. For instance, you may include “do not resuscitate” orders or how you’d like organ donation to be handled (if at all).

Check your state laws on how to correctly instate an advance medical directive or living will. It’s also important to provide copies to your doctor and family members so that they have your wishes on hand.

If you are about to undergo a major medical procedure, you may be prompted to fill out an advance medical directive form before it takes place.

Power of Attorney

Another type of legal document to include in your estate planning checklist is power of attorney. It’s similar to a power of attorney for health care, but with much broader impact.

It lets you choose an individual to make all types of decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated, including financial and living decisions.

You can opt to give someone general power of attorney, and that person will simply act on your behalf moving forward. Or you can grant someone individual power of attorney, which only lets them act on your behalf during specific situations that you include in the legal document.

A power of attorney becomes dissolved in a few situations. First, it automatically goes away if you die and the other directives of your will (including the executor) go into effect. It also automatically ends if you get divorced and your spouse had power of attorney for you. Alternatively, if the person with power of attorney dies or becomes incapacitated, then they’ll no longer be able to fulfill their duties. A court can also invalidate the power of attorney document.

Just like any other role you assign in your estate planning documents, picking the right person to have power of attorney can have a major effect on your life. It’s best to choose wisely and have open conversations about your wishes if you were to no longer be able to take care of yourself.

The Takeaway

Estate planning documents dictate a person’s wishes about how to handle their wealth, health, and children upon their incapacitation or demise. An estate plan can minimize the delays, expense, and loss of privacy of the probate process.

Looking for help with your estate planning? SoFi Members can get a 10% discount, thanks to our partnership with Trust & Will, the leading online estate planning platform in the U.S.

SoFi has also teamed up with solid insurance companies to offer a range of protections. Explore SoFi Protect today.


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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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