Nobody wants to think about end of life planning when they’re in the thick of things, picking up kids from daycare and planning family vacations. Additionally, nobody wants to think that they could need advance planning because of a tragic accident or an unexpected illness.
However, if you could make things easier for those left behind, wouldn’t you want to put careful thought in preparing for the unexpected? If the unthinkable occurs, advance planning can reduce stress and confusion for those closest to you during a difficult time.
Here are 2 items to focus on:
1. Make a comprehensive list of those who may be affected when you pass, and communicate when these individuals and organizations should be contacted.
First, you’ll want to help loved ones alert close family and friends, as well as your employer. You should create a list of who to notify that includes their contact information.It may seem like your loved ones should tell financial institutions right away, but banks often freeze accounts that are solely in the name of the deceased. They may also freeze safe deposit boxes on death, even when these are held jointly. If you have a practical reason to keep an account open for awhile, you may want to encourage them to hold off on immediately letting your bank know. Speak with your financial institutions ahead of time to learn of any restrictions, and make a game plan.
2. Organize important documents, and let your loved ones know where to locate them.
Institutions have various requirements when it comes to proof of passing and proof of the decedent’s wishes. Ensure that your loved ones and the executor of your estate know where the following documents are:
- Current statements (bank, brokerage, retirement accounts)
- Estate documents (wills, pre-planned charitable gifting arrangements, etc.)
- Tax returns (at least from the last three years)
- Social Security number
- Certificates (birth and marriage)
- Insurance documents (homeowners, auto, life, rental properties, various assets)
- Titles (car, real estate, boat, etc.)
- Business agreements/contracts
- Military discharge papers
You may find that your situation makes these considerations more complex. If you find that your situation would benefit from the insight of an objective third party, a licensed estate planning attorney or financial advisor may be of invaluable help.