End of Life Planning — Preparing for the Inevitable
Not many of us like to think about this world without us in it, but at some point our time on this earth does end. For our families and friends this can be a very traumatic and sorrow filled time. It can also present a number of legal and financial challenges depending on how well we have put our affairs in order prior to our death.
When we don’t so some degree of “end of life” planning, we just make it harder for our families at a time when they are dealing with a significant loss in their lives.
Your Final Wishes
Making your final wishes known can eliminate a great deal of heartache and family feuding over how to deal with a number of key items.
The first order of business is to make sure you have a will. This helps you avoid probate and ensures that your wishes will be followed. You may also have trusts and a living will that provide even more direction for your family and heirs. Putting a basic will together does not have to take a lot of time or be expensive.
Along with your will there are many other questions that will arise if you become incapacitated or when you pass away. Having written instructions detailing your desires can make these decisions easier for your family. They include ….
- What should be done in the case of your incapacity?
- Have you designated a Power of Attorney for your Assets and Medical decisions?
- Do you wish to be an organ donor?
- Have you made burial or cremation arrangements?
- Are there specific people and details you want included in your funeral service?
- Who should be notified when you pass away?
Regarding financial assets, does your family know …
- What military, social security, pension and other retirement benefits are you receiving?
- What life, health, long term care and disability insurance did you have? Who are your agents?
- Have you compiled a list (with account numbers) of all your financial holdings, brokerage and bank accounts?
- Do you have a record of all legal documents i.e. wills, trusts, POA’s, and other legal agreements? Where are they located?
- List names of any attorneys and accountants that you have used.
- Provide a financial statement with all your assets and liabilities.
Making It Easier For Your Family
The goal of compiling these lists and data is to make it easier on your family. None of us want to think about dying, but by expressing our wishes now, decisions are being made that allow us to determine how our assets and final services will be handled.
A more formal checklist that you can use as a guideline can be found at End of Life Planning. Our only suggestion is to not put it off. Take the time now to prepare for a time when no one wants to think about these matters.
The value of your estate and types of assets you have will determine what level of legal and financial advice you will require.