Are you preparing for a life change — You are getting married, having your first child, deciding to retire, or worse, you are sick. Either of those life changes should prompt you leave instructions on what you want done once you’re gone.
You want to make sure your family is taken care of and that everyone knows what you want done with your estate, finances, funeral arrangements, pets, house, etc. It is not a good idea to die interstate as the estate will go to probate and will take a long time to be dis-positioned (about 2 years and longer, if it is contested). Worse, the court makes a decision on your assets and takes a cut for doing so. The lawyers and the courts will be richer and less assets will reach your heirs. You don’t want to do that!
To prevent your estate from going to probate, is to ensure your family knows what to do and your wishes are carried out. This can be done by using the steps listed below.
- What documents are critical to have for each person – they should be created and signed before a notary public
- Last will – Your wishes on how to apportion your estate, monies, house, other assets – who gets what
- Health care proxy – living will – spells out your wishes when you cannot
- Power of attorney – in case you cannot make decisions yourself
- Ensure all the brokerage accounts, retirement accounts, safe deposit boxes, deeds, etc are accessible to your family and the estate passes to them and their descendants worry free.
- Set up a living trust that goes to your family upon your death. name trustees that will ensure that happens.
- Have a list of accounts with names, phone numbers, account numbers, passwords, etc.
- Make sure all accounts have a form on file listing beneficiaries in the event something happens to you
- First, your spouse gets everything. Have all assets joint ownership with rights of survivorship
- If both of you die, spell out who gets what % of share of the account
- Pick an executor and talk to them about the job before they are needed. Ensure they are willing to do it and have your best wishes in mind.
- Have a valid living will or health care proxy
- Spells efforts in case of emergency
- What if you can’t communicate your wishes – Say it in writing, before it is needed
- Living will – main points – instructions on what to do
- discussions with family on what to do – Take the fear & guilt from decisions
- Have conversations with your family on what your wishes are in case of an emergency or you cannot make a decision.
- What about maximum efforts to save your life
- What about if you cannot say what you want
- Donating your organs
- A Living will, health care proxy , and power of attorney are critical for those decisions
- Departure – Prepare your family for your exit
- Make sure you talk about what last rites should be performed and by whom
- Copies of documents in your house in a lock-box, adult children, trusted friend, or attorney’s office
- Reading of the will or trust, carrying out the wishes, and hopefully a fast and easy probate court process
- Funeral arrangements – funeral home, viewing, cemetery plot??
- Cremation and disposal of ashes.
- Burial and cemetery plot, headstone, casket
- Viewing prior to burial
Now, you are ready for any eventuality. By the way, this process should be followed and documents created and notarized for anyone who reaches adulthood. Especially if they are married and there are young children involved. You want to make sure your minor children are taken care of and they are with someone you trust to do what is right for your children. Ensure that you also pick someone to manage the finances, it may not be the same person who takes care of your minor children. You cannot direct from beyond but at least you make things easier for your loved ones.
Having those type of conversations aren’t easy and yet very needed. So, get beyond the uneasiness and have those important convesations and ensure what was agreed is put into the necessary documents and safely kept away. You never know when you or your loved ones will need them.