Mary Owens: Estate planning from the heart
Planning for your incapacitation and eventual death has a way of causing even well-organized people to procrastinate in ways that can only be described as subconscious denial of an eventual future reality. I understand their feelings. Thinking thoroughly through a process of a future without your presence can be upsetting. But I want to encourage all procrastinators out there to get the process started soon AND get it completed, without exception, for even the smallest detailed task.
The greatest gift you can leave for your loved ones is a completed road map of your estate planning, financial assets, and your operational living structure. But your guide for their way forward must have the following characteristics:
It’s locatable by your loved ones,
It’s understandable by your loved ones,
AND the map correctly describes the correct current state of various affairs.
For the next several months, I will be describing in full detail the small issues that can cause significant emotional strain on those left behind, and how you can actively prepare to avoid this additional stress after your death.
Most readers are fully aware that they should have their basic legal documents in order. The most commonly needed are your will, your living trust, your power of attorney, and your medical directives. But there is far more documentation that needs to be addressed. Trying to navigate in informational darkness while the person you dearly love is going through the dying process is one of the most trying events of our lives.
We are about to embark on a journey of examination of your habits and activities that are most likely only thoroughly known by you and not your loved ones. These tasks may seem mundane to the one doing them daily in the past, but they are a black hole to a grieving stressed out widow or widower that simply wants to know how the simplest of tasks are accomplished.
During the next several months we will go through key questions, the answers to which you should be sharing with your spouse or other loved one in your informational road map for their way forward in a future life without you.
This last month was a very emotional one for me. I lost nine people that I knew. Two I considered dear friends, two died suddenly without any expectation of illness, one was murdered, and the rest succumbed to various illnesses. In my industry, dealing with death is something I know I will encounter on a regular basis. By nature of my professional training, when someone passes, the “assist button” goes into full power and I help the surviving through it without pause.
But this month was different. It hit home hard. As I have grown older, my understanding of the intense grief and feeling of helplessness has increased. While trying to celebrate the lives lived so well, emotional energy must be expended on the unknown details that will derail them if not dealt with immediately. But the biggest impact on me after this very difficult month was the need to express to my readers the simple things that can be done for your loved ones that will make this period of loss a bit easier to get through. None of the chores are difficult or costly to get accomplished, but they do take your forethought and understanding to see they are critical tasks of love.
Here is a short list of the types of issues your road map needs to address:
Is the trust properly funded and up to date with current circumstances?
Are the beneficiaries on life insurance, retirement plans, annuities and other death benefits correct, and do they match the trust document intentions?
Who is authorized to make funeral arrangements? Do I know my loved one wanted to be buried or cremated? How do I pay for the funeral when all the liquid assets may be inaccessible?
I have questions about the death certificate. How do I get these answers?
Will my credit card still work after the notification of the death of the loved one?
What bills are auto-paid and which are not? How do I find out what needs to be paid? I don’t know anything about online banking. How does it work?
How do the yard sprinklers work? It is hot out and I don’t know how to turn the water on.
What are the passwords to the online access to everything? Where are they stored?
Where is all the contact information of the people I am supposed to be calling and letting them know he or she is gone?
The utility bill in not in my name. They won’t talk with me. What do I do?
What is the death benefit on the pension? How much income will I have after the death?
If you feel you may be asking these questions, sit down with your loved ones immediately. There are chores to be done and the time to get them completed is the present. Forethought for your loved ones is a very loving and powerful gift.
Mary Owens, Principal/Branch Manager, RJFS, 426 Sutton Way, Suite 110, Grass Valley, CA 95945, 530-272-7500. Securities offered through Raymond James Financial Services, Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC. Owens Estate and Wealth Strategies Group is not a registered broker/dealer and is independent of Raymond James Financial Services. Investment advisory services offered through Raymond James Financial Services Advisors, Inc. Neither Raymond James Financial Services nor any Raymond James Financial Advisor renders advice on tax, legal or mortgage issues, these matters should be discussed with the appropriate professional. The foregoing information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that it is accurate or complete. Any opinions are those of Mary Owens and not necessarily those of Raymond James. This information is not a complete summary or statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision and does not constitute a recommendation.
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