Thinking Ahead

Week 2: Building Your Team

In order for any of your plans to take effect, you need a team of friends, family, and professionals who know your wishes and are willing to carry them out in your absence or inability. This week we will draft a list of who these wonderful people are who will help you Think Ahead. Some can be friends and loved ones while others should be professionally trained. All of them will help you draft documents and understand what your realistic options are.

As you come up with this list, contact these people and schedule time during the next three weeks to talk to them about your wishes. Each days’ tasks won’t be completed in one day, but they should be completed before the start of Week 5.

Talk About It

Friends and family often have great advice on people to contact for certain services, so feel free to ask them for recommendations on attorneys, doctors, and other professionals. Also, some may have recommendations for nonprofessionals like an executor or power of attorney.

Day 8: Financial Planner

Part of getting your affairs in order includes knowing what your affairs are, and a financial planner can help you figure that out and more. A financial planner can help you organize retirement savings, put aside money for end-of-life care, and help you tackle debts that would otherwise be passed on to loved ones.

Keep in mind that there are some end-of-life expenses that can only be paid for after a death. Make sure to set aside resources to cover these costs.

  • Choose a financial planner
  • Make an appointment with a financial planner during the next three weeks
  • Prepare for your appointment
  • Attend your appointment
  • Record contact information for your financial planner

Day 9: Trust & Estate Attorney

An experienced estate attorney can help you draft a comprehensive estate plan that can include a will, power of attorney, trusts, and healthcare directives. Don’t be afraid to splurge here. A lawyer who has extensive experience in estate planning may charge high fees, but those fees will pay for themselves when you avoid a long probate and other potential legal complications.

  • Choose a trust and estate attorney
  • Make an appointment with a trust and estate attorney during the next three weeks
  • Prepare for your appointment
  • Attend your appointment
  • Record contact information for your trust and estate attorney

Day 10: Power of Attorney/Next of Kin

There are multiple kinds of powers of attorney (POA), but for now we will focus on a financial and legal power of attorney. This is someone who you designate to make financial and legal decisions for you when you cannot. For example, if you are out of the country and need to sell your house, you would need a nondurable power of attorney.

A durable power of attorney will begin or continue to be effective once you become mentally incapacitated. This allows an agent of your choosing to handle financial and legal affairs if you are unable to communicate or if your mental health has severely declined.

Your trust and estate attorney can help you choose a POA and discuss what powers you should give to your POA, but an attorney is not necessary. A POA should be a loved one you trust to make decisions on your behalf, and you should discuss your ideals and goals with them.

Another notable person (or people) is your next of kin. This is the person who essentially takes on the role of your power of attorney after you pass away. The next of kin is determined by local laws, but they are most often a spouse or child of the deceased. Usually they only come into play if someone dies without creating a will, but they also may be asked to approve disposition or funeral plans on short notice. Make sure they know and are willing to follow through with your plans.

  • Choose a durable power of attorney
  • Make an appointment with your power of attorney during the next three weeks
  • Prepare for your appointment with your POA
  • Attend your appointment with your POA
  • Complete a power of attorney form for your state
  • Record contact information for your power of attorney
  • Make an appointment with your next of kin during the next three weeks
  • Attend your appointment with your next of kin
  • Record contact information for your next of kin

Day 11: Healthcare Proxy

A health care proxy (also called a durable medical power of attorney) is a type of power of attorney that handles your medical decisions when you cannot. This is often the same person as your regular power of attorney, but it requires different documentation. If you wish to have another person as your health care proxy, ensure that they get along well with your POA.

Your trust and estate attorney may have brought up a living will, and while it is a valid way to clarify your wishes, they often feature vague language and may not fully cover your wishes. In fact, your doctor may not ever see that document, especially in the case of an emergency.

Speaking of your doctor, make sure that you speak with your general practitioner or whoever is caring for you about your wishes. Make sure your health care proxy knows them, too, to ensure that you receive the kind of care you want.

  • Choose a health care proxy
  • Make an appointment with a healthcare proxy during the next three weeks
  • Prepare for your appointment with your health care proxy
  • Attend your appointment with your health care proxy
  • Record contact information for your health care proxy
  • Make an appointment with your doctor during the next three weeks
  • Prepare for your appointment with your doctor
  • Attend your appointment with your doctor
  • Record contact information for your doctor

Day 12: Executor

Executors and trustees are the people who will oversee how your assets are distributed after your death. Specifically, executors will handle the distribution of the assets in your will and your trustees will handle your trusts. Executors and trustees can be a trusted and organized loved one, a professional, or a whole company.

Your trust and estate attorney can help you designate your executor and trustees.

  • Choose someone to be the executor of your will
  • Make an appointment with an executor during the next three weeks
  • Prepare for your appointment with your executor
  • Attend your appointment with your executor
  • Record contact information for your executor
  • Choose a trustee to manage each of your trusts
  • Make appointments with your trustees during the next three weeks
  • Prepare for your appointments with your trustees
  • Attend your appointments with your trustees
  • Record contact information for your trustees

Day 13: Insurance Agent

Insurance agents can offer you an insurance plan that best fits your needs. Captive agents work for only one company (and thus know details on every policy) while independent brokers can help you shop around different companies (and thus can find you the best price on similar policies). Make sure your agent doesn’t ask for any consultation fee because their commission is included in the price of whatever policy you get.

  • Look back at your notes from last week about your insurance policies
  • Decide what kind of insurance your need
  • Choose an insurance agent
  • Make an appointment with an insurance agent during the next three weeks
  • Prepare for your appointment with your insurance agent
  • Record contact information for your insurance agent

Day 14: Funeral Director

Choosing who will care for you after you pass away can feel strange. There’s nothing that feels more final than deciding how you want to be laid to rest. However, taking some time to look into what kind of organization you want to care for you can help your family immensely at the time of need. In all cases, you will be cared for by a funeral director, an often licensed (depending on the state) person who specializes in caring for those who have passed away.

A traditional funeral home handles the preparation of someone who has passed away for their final rest. Most funeral homes specialize in traditional funeral and burial services and are less experienced with cremation. However, many local funeral home owners are very professional and caring toward the families they service.

A cremation society like Neptune Society is essentially a funeral home that specializes in cremation services. Some cremation societies may offer limited burial and funeral planning services, but they are better known for helping families plan affordable cremation and sometimes scattering services. The staff is just as warm and welcoming as that in a traditional funeral home, but they may be located in a smaller, storefront-style office.

If you have any questions about cremation or the cremation process, we highly recommend contacting one of our representatives to learn more. We will also cover some of these topics in Week 4.

  • Think about how you wish to be cared for after you pass away
  • Contact Neptune Society or a funeral home to schedule an appointment to learn more about your option for funeral services