Everyone will pass away — and while this is a harsh reality to accept, it’s a reality nonetheless. To that end, then, it’s important to discuss your final wishes with your loved ones and put a plan in place as early as possible to ensure that those wishes are carried out. One of the worst things to do to your loved ones is leave your legal, medical and financial affairs otherwise unattended and unaccounted for. Aside from the grief of a loved one’s death, no family member should have to be responsible for making these difficult decisions regarding your final affairs. Not only does it add to the stress, but it also means that they won’t necessarily do what you wish. Here is a checklist of items that you need to do in order to prepare for the inevitable so your loved ones don’t have to.
The Legal Checklist
- Are your will and estate in good order? You have to prepare for everything in your will — from who gets custody of your children and pets, to who benefits (financially) from your estate. Your will must be signed by you in sound mind and body, and in the presence of an attorney.
- Are your taxes provided for in your will and estate? In many states, your heirs can be subjected to as much as 51 percent estate tax upon your death. Also, while you can download your own legal forms from the Internet, it can be helpful to have an estate attorney handle your affairs. This is especially true if your legal affairs are complicated, or you have a large estate or many heirs.
- Is your health care directive in proper order? Let’s suppose that, prior to your passing, you go through a series of illnesses that leave you incapable of articulating your desires for your medical treatment. In this case, you will need a health care directive so that your executors can follow through with your medical wishes. Do you want "heroic" (which is the proper medical term for "anything and everything necessary") measures to be taken when it comes to your health? Or do you have a "do not resuscitate" order in effect so that heroic measures aren’t taken? Whatever your medical directive, make sure that it’s in order before something happens to you, or you run the risk of your final wishes not being honored by your heirs.
- Do you need a conservatorship established? To define what a conservatorship is, we’ll use an example: let’s suppose that you enter into a coma or develop a form of dementia, thereby leaving you incapable of making your own decisions when it comes to your medical requests. If this is the case, you’ll need to have a conservatorship set up — you’ll be declared legally and medically incompetent, and your heirs will be required to make medical decisions on your behalf.
- Finally, but certainly no less importantly, do you have a durable power of attorney for your medical needs set up? A power of attorney gives another person the power to make medical decisions on your behalf (though how extensive a power of attorney is, or can be, varies from state to state). Unlike a conservatorship, a power of attorney is what’s set up prior to you becoming incapacitated, and doesn’t go into effect unless and until you’re incapable of making your own decisions about your medical state.
The Financial Checklist
- Do you have a durable power of attorney for your financial needs set up? Similar to a power of attorney for your medical needs, a power of attorney for your financial needs gives another person the right to control your finances, and make decisions about your finances on your behalf, especially if you are incapacitated and cannot do so.
- Have you made provisions in your will for any outstanding financial obligations? Will your children (or your other heirs) be able to fulfill the obligations set forth in your mortgage or other debt payments? If your spouse is still alive, will he or she be able to take care of those obligations, and receive a Social Security death benefit upon your passing?
- Do you have easy access to all of your important financial documents, such as bank statements and tax returns? Without these important documents, in many cases, it will be impossible for your heirs and executors to have access to your estate. For more information about what you can do, financially, to prepare for your death, click here.
These are just a few of the many obligations that you’ll have to fulfill prior to the inevitable, as well as discussing with your loved ones your preferences for your final arrangements. We can guide you through the cremation planning process and provide peace of mind for you and your family. For more information about our services, contact us today.