Susan got the call no one wants. Her mother, age 65, had a massive heart attack and passed away en route to the hospital. The news came as a total surprise. Her mom had always taken great care of herself and was thought to be in good health. And unfortunately, her mom had not yet prepared a will or handled other end of life to-dos. The months that followed were understandably full of shock and grief for Susan but also wrought with much unnecessary stress as she struggled to sort through her mom’s affairs and make decisions.
While no one loves the idea of thinking about death, avoiding end of life preparations can add a massive burden to those we leave behind. The good news though is that this all-too-common scenario is entirely avoidable. Spending a bit of time getting your affairs in order now brings peace of mind in the present and ease for loved ones in the future. Not sure where to start? We’ve mapped out five steps you can take to get organized and leave the legacy you desire.
- Organize and Safely Store Documents
Just ask someone who has had to tear apart a loved one’s home looking for a lost will or other necessary paperwork—it’s no fun. Make things easier for yourself and others by collecting and safely storing key documents and information like this:
- Will or trust documents
- Online account URLs, logins/email addresses, and passwords
- Social security card
- Important certificates (marriage, birth, etc.)
- Names and contact info for key professionals like attorneys, financial advisors, accountants, insurance reps, etc.
- Retirement or insurance benefit information
- Mortgage and debt documents
- Asset documentation (e.g., car titles, house deeds)
- Consider Simplifying
Now might be the time to consider streamlining and simplifying. Many people in their later years ascribe to the less-is-more philosophy. This whittling down looks different for everyone, but might include these types of tasks:
- Gifting loved ones with family heirlooms or other possessions
- Consolidating accounts and business sheets
- Liquidating or transferring businesses or other assets
- Transferring or clarifying real estate ownership
- Downsizing or simplifying living arrangement
- Communicate with Key Family and Friends
Avoid stress and unpleasant surprises for your loved ones by talking openly and honestly about end of life issues before it’s too late. Sharing your wishes now regarding medical care and legacy decisions might feel a little uncomfortable, but benefits everyone in the long run.
Start by finding the right time and location to bring these issues up. Putting some thought into how and when to broach the subject can go a long way. If you need help, a seasoned estate planning attorney can guide you on handling these sensitive family discussions.
- Organize and Safely Store Documents
- Set Up Powers of Attorney and/or a Living Will
It’s tempting to want to think we’ll always be able to make sound decisions for ourselves, but that’s not always the case. If the time comes when you need someone to make crucial decisions for you, it’s critical to have the right people and paperwork in place. Designating powers of attorney for medical and financial choices allows someone you trust to have the authority they need to speak into your situation. Many people also have a living will drawn up, specifying what kind of treatment you do and don’t want in the case of terminal illness or incapacitation.
- Establish or Update Estate Plans
Securing your funds and assets now through a substantial estate plan allows future generations to benefit from the life you’ve worked so hard to build. Having no plan in place at all or a will with ambiguity can jeopardize your legacy and cause needless family squabbles.
It’s best to sit down with an experienced estate planning attorney to map out a plan to provide for your loved ones. They’ll help you designate beneficiaries, executors, and other vital roles, and craft a will that suits your unique family and situation. An attorney can also determine whether a trust or other specialized arrangement might be beneficial in your case, considering individual needs like businesses, family cottages, estate taxes, digital currency, Medicaid, and even family pets.
Getting your affairs in order isn’t a one and done. Making sure your plans are reviewed and updated regularly is critical. Divorces, births, deaths, and other life changes can necessitate changes. Revisiting your end of life plan at least once a year will help ensure your wishes are carried out exactly as you’d like.
When we say “here for life,” we mean it. At BB&C, we’ve been honored to come alongside Hoosiers for decades. We have navigated life transitions and secured legacies for five generations of families in Central Indiana. Our diverse attorney skill sets allow us to provide holistic support as your needs change. If you’re ready to start or shore up your end of life planning, we’d be honored to help. Reach out to Kyle Mandeville at 765-742-9068.
The content of this blog is intended to be general and informational in nature. It is advertising material and is not intended to be, nor is it, legal advice to or for any particular person, case, or circumstance. Each situation is different, and you should consult an attorney if you have any questions about your situation.