Preparing for the End
Joan River’s recent death illustrates a sad reality of life. We never know when our last day on earth will be.
While we can’t control that, we can control how well prepared we are to pass on our estate to our heirs and to make the transfer much easier for them.
Even if you are up to the challenge of being prepared, it can be difficult to know just what that entails. You might assume that being organized simply means creating or updating wills and trusts, but there is more work that needs to be done. And you’ll find that most of this work involves mundane details that are easy to overlook.
For instance, if you died tomorrow, would your loved ones know answers to these kinds of questions:
- What accounts do you automatically pay online?
- What is the password to your email account(s)?
- What are your Internet passwords?
- Where do you store your old income tax returns?
- Where is your birth certificate?
- Where is your passport?
- What is the burglar alarm code and the alarm company contact?
- Who completes your taxes?
- Where do you keep your checkbook and blank checks?
- Do you have a safe? If so, where is it located and what is the combination?
- Where is the shut off for the water and gas?
- What is the contact for lawn care, house cleaning etc.
- What will happen to your pet(s)?
There are plenty of other questions that will need answers including:
- Where is the key and account number to a safe deposit box?
- Where are the titles to your vehicles?
- Where do you keep all your keys?
- Do you have a prearranged funeral plan?
- Are you eligible for a military burial?
- Where are your military discharge papers and service ID?
While it can be hard anticipating what your heirs will need, there are some excellent free and inexpensive resources that can help.
Here are two resources worth checking out:
The Big Book of Everything
According to a recent story in The New York Times, The Big Book of Everything is being downloaded 1,000 times a month from the Internet. The free guide, which was written by Erik A. Dewey, asks the reader to share information that a family would need to know after a person’s death. The guide also asks for other information, such as health and employment histories, that can be handy references for people of any age.
12 Critical Things Your Family Needs to Know
Mark Gavagan, who wrote 12 Critical Things Your Family Needs to Know, says that there are a dozen major areas of decisions and information that individuals should provide their loved ones in anticipation of their own death or incapacity.
These are the 12 areas:
- Personal and family information
- Family medical history
- Investment, bank accounts and other financial assets
- Retirement plans and annuities
- Real estate
- Debt and liabilities
- Advance care directives
- Organ donation choices
- Final arrangements
- Wills, trusts and estate plans
The downloadable guide costs $12.95. You can type all the information that this guide requests right into the PDF.
Protect Your Information
Once you compile a document with all the necessary information, you’re going to want to protect it. Store it in a safe or safety deposit box and be sure to notify two or more people whom you trust about its existence.
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