1. Create an Estate Plan
An estate plan can include a last will and testament, powers of attorney, as well as other important documents which can make life easier for your family, not only when you die, but also while you are still alive! None of us wants to think about our own mortality but the reality is we will all die. And we may need assistance from our loved ones if we become incapacitated at some time during our life. Proactively planning will ensure your family isn’t left trying to put together the pieces of the puzzle during a time of crisis.
2. Talk to your Family about your Plans
While we would all like to think our family and friends would never fight with each other in the wake of our death, the sad reality is that people react in very bizarre ways to death and normally loving families can be torn apart in grief. Even if you leave a detailed estate plan, people can challenge that plan in court.
Simply talking to family members about your end-of-life decisions and letting them know your wishes regarding being an organ donor, whether you want to be buried or cremated, and why you are leaving certain assets to some and not to others, can clarify any misunderstandings. If you don’t want to talk to your family members before you die, you can use a letter or video to explain your wishes. The more transparent you can be, the less likely people are to make a challenge in court.
3. Get all Your Paperwork in Order
When you die your personal representative or successor trustee will be responsible for pulling together all your paperwork. That person will have to inform all your creditors that you have died and will have to settle debts. They will also be responsible for distributing your assets.
The more organized your documents are, the easier it will be for the personal representative/trustee to pull everything together. We recommend that everyone keep an inventory of financial accounts and assets along with passwords, account numbers and balances. Additionally, keep an inventory of debts listing who the creditor is, how much is owed, and their contact information. The inventory should be updated every six months to a year to keep it current. It should be kept in a safe place with other important documents. You should destroy any prior lists each time you make a new list and the list should be signed and dated.
Although each of these steps may take time, the time and money it will save your loved ones is immeasurable.