If you or someone you love is grappling with a serious illness, or even if you are perfectly healthy and all is well, you still need to have your affairs in order. A lot of people resist this for many reasons:
1) You have plenty of time (you don’t)
2) It won’t happen to you (it can)
3) Why will it matter, you’re gone (it does)
4) It’s morbid (it happens to everyone – for real).
It can make you feel angry and helpless, trying to convince your loved ones to take care of things ahead of time and make it easier on you when they are gone. So what do you do if the important people in your life have not made their wishes legal? While it is a conversation no one wants to have, you must keep pressing. Trying to guess what their wishes are and having to figure that out in the midst of dealing with other people’s opinions is the stuff of heartbreak and hurt feelings.
We will walk you through the types of documents and coverage that you need. This isn’t really about you, it’s about the people who love you. If something, god forbid, happens to you, then don’t make it worse by leaving it up to them to figure out what your wishes are. They will be shocked, stunned and grieving, or at the very least, terrified of what could happen to you. If you have everything documented and legal, then they can focus on you and only you.
Yes, these things are hard to think about, but the alternative is harder for everyone who loves you. This is the most unselfish and loving thing that you can do for them.
Will – The most basic but completely necessary document. If you have children, it is particularly important to think through and appoint a legal guardian. To create a will, you don’t need to hire a fancy lawyer. There are templates online, or you can work through a service like www.legalzoom.com, where you fill out a questionnaire, pay a fee and in an instant you have a will created specifically for you. All you have to do is notarize it.
A Living Revocable Trust keeps your estate intact for your heirs while also protecting them from estate and probate taxes. You can add all of your assets to the trust, from your home to your retirement to your business. You can change your trust at any time.
Insurance – Life insurance is a necessity. It will take care of any outstanding debt you have, the mortgage, and even death expenses. You probably are not aware of how much a funeral costs (the average is $10,000 to $20,000). If you have children, make sure your policy is high enough that it will cover college expenses and anything else that you think they (or your spouse) might need in your absence, like mortgage payments, car insurance and basic needs.
Health Care Directive –
This states your medical wishes, should you become incapacitated and unable to speak for yourself. If you have specific religious beliefs, for instance, this is vitally important to already have in place. Your directive will need to be notarized.
Power of Attorney – What if you are unable to make your own decisions? Do you have someone you trust to make them for you? Think about this carefully, and make sure your appointed person is clear on your wishes and instructions. This will also need to be notarized.
Do you want a good ole’ Irish wake or do you want a somber tribute? Do you want your favorite song or certain flowers? Who takes care of your pets, your stamp collection, your vintage car? Think about it, write it down, have two people witness it. Do it in advance, because those left behind will not be able to read your mind. Inevitably, there will be disagreements about your wishes, so clarify it ahead of time and then no one has to wonder.
Burial arrangements – There are many ways to take care of this in advance. You can pre-pay for services, plots, cremation, life celebrations, headstones. The more you do in advance, the easier it is on the ones you love.
Long term or short term care insurance – This can be a lifesaver if you become seriously injured or incapacitated. Long term or short term care is exorbitantly expensive, so do the legwork and make sure you have coverage ahead of time. It’s a minimal amount of money to avoid a maximum amount of stress, heartache and financial disaster.
Safe Deposit Box/Home Safe – Keep copies of your legal documents in both of these places. Let someone know where the safe and safe deposit box is located and how to access them. Also keep your account numbers, password and other pertinent information here.
Beneficiary updates – You have to stay on top of this, and keep things up to date and accurate. Keep a list of each account and who the beneficiary is in your home safe and safe deposit box. Make it a cakewalk, not a scavenger hunt for your heirs.
Please take the time to think about this and the implications of not having these things sorted. Everyone who cares about you will be better served by you having the forethought to take care of them. Don’t wait until tomorrow, you may only have today.