Thinking Ahead

Week 3: Creating Documents

This week is all about the documents that need to be taken care of to ensure that your wishes are carried out correctly and efficiently. Feel free to jump around the days as you have your appointments you set up last week. The tasks will reflect things that you should be sure to include in these documents.

Make sure to add these documents to your Planning Box after meeting with the appropriate professionals.

Talk About It

Make sure you include your loved ones in your discussions about what is important to you. These documents will affect them greatly, and you should check in every once in a while to ensure that the financial and health plans you’re making won’t affect them adversely.

Day 15: The Will

A will is a legal document that describes how your property and assets will be distributed when you pass away. Your trust and estate attorney will help you draft this, and your executor will be the one to carry out its directions. If you’re worried about estate taxes or extensive probate, consider putting some of your assets into trusts.

Probate is the legal process by which assets in a will are distributed. This can sometimes take a long time, which is why you may be encouraged to avoid probate as much as possible. Estate taxes can be applied to estates of a certain size, and they can cut into the value of your estate. Talk to your trust and estate attorney to learn how to protect your assets.

A will is NOT the place to list whether you want to be buried or cremated and the details of your funeral service! Due to probate and the time it may take to find the will in the first place, a will is often processed long after the body has been cared for.

Neptune Society also works closely with Willing.com, an online will writing service run by a team of highly respected attorneys. You can use this service to draft a will online, and we encourage you to reach out and let their team answer any questions you may have about the process.

  • Name guardians for minor children
  • Name new caretakers for pets
  • Name beneficiaries for any account that you don’t want going through probate
  • Ensure all real estate and prized possessions are inherited by the correct people
  • Coordinate with a spouse through the drafting of a will. Some decisions may even require their permission

Day 16: Trusts

A trust is a legal document that transfers an asset from you to a third party so it can be distributed quickly to beneficiaries after you pass away. Your trustee(s) will distribute the assets to your beneficiaries. Trusts avoid probate, and some kinds can help you avoid estate taxes. Talk to your trust and estate attorney to understand if a trust may be beneficial for you.

We use trusts all the time. Neptune Society uses a trust to ensure that when a family preplans their cremation services with us their money is available at the time of need to pay for everything. This means that families don’t have to worry about paying extra at the time of need due to inflation or other price increases over the years.

A revocable trust is a trust that allows you to retain some control over your assets while you are still alive. An irrevocable trust takes control of your assets away from you, but it can help you avoid estate taxes. A trust and estate attorney can help you decide which kind of trust is best for you.

  • Decide with your trust and estate attorney what assets, if any, need to be secured in a trust

Day 17: Power of Attorney

A power of attorney is not just a person. It’s also the name given to the document that gives the person that power. While you technically don’t need your trust and estate attorney to complete the form in most states, discussing the financial and legal power of your power of attorney with your attorney is highly recommended.

  • Complete the financial and legal power of attorney form for your state

Day 18: Advance Directive

An advance directive is a collection of documents that describe how you wish medical decisions to be made for you when you cannot make medical decisions for yourself. Living wills, health care proxies, DNR forms, and organ donation forms are all part of your advance directive. Make sure you go over these forms with your doctor and that you clearly explain to your health care proxy what you want.

Do Not Resuscitate Orders often star in medical dramas, but they play a very important role in real life as well. They indicate that if your heart or breathing stops that you not be giving life-saving treatment. For those who are afraid of being attached to machinery for a week before passing away anyway, a DNR will protect you. However, do talk about this with loved ones and with your doctor so they know and can accept what you request.

Organ Donation is one of the first things that have to be decided after someone passes away. Make sure to tell your doctor and your health care proxy whether or not you wish to donate, and keep in mind that doing so can save others’ lives.

  • Decide if you want to be an organ donor
    • If so, complete the required forms for your state with your doctor
  • Decide if you wish to sign a DNR
    • If so, complete the required forms for your state with your doctor
  • Talk to your doctor and estate attorney about completing a living will
  • Ensure your healthcare proxy knows your wishes

Day 19: Disposition

One of the most important parts of Thinking Ahead requires thinking about how your body will be cared for. Traditionally, such affairs are handled by loved ones after someone passes away, but there is a better way. Taking time to think about where and how you will be laid to rest can take a huge load off loved one’s shoulders who will already be experiencing enough grief and stress as it is.

To make planning easier, some companies like Neptune Society offer preplanning packages that include many services at a more affordable price than purchasing these services separately. Neptune Society concentrates on cremation services, so our packages come with the cremation service itself, transportation, an urn, assistance with completing death certificates, and other services.

If you wish to use only some of the packaged services (for example, if you wish to use your own urn), then let your funeral director know. The Funeral Rule states that any funeral home must accept working with only the services and items the family wants. This includes using outside urns or caskets.

We talk about a lot of this next week, so feel free to schedule appointments about this topic then or skip ahead and take a peek.

  • Think about how you want to be cared for after you pass away (See Week 4)
  • Choose a funeral home that can carry out your wishes
  • Preplan a service
  • Write down contact information

Day 20: Benefits

Insurance and employer benefits can make paying for your final expenses much easier. Long-term healthcare and funeral services can be very expensive, but certain benefits can offset those costs for you and your loved ones. Take some time to see what you may be eligible for, and factor that into your financial decisions.

Neptune Society also provides extensive information on veteran funeral benefits and veteran services. For any questions about what makes a veteran eligible for benefits, how to apply for them, and ways that you can preplan certain services, look to one of our articles on the topic or our comprehensive ebook.

  • If you’re a veteran, record what benefits are available to you
  • Talk with your financial planner about what employer benefits you may have
  • Talk to your insurance agent about what kind of insurance you may need

Day 21: Religion

Many Americans have strong religious beliefs about what happens after someone passes away. Part of these beliefs may include specific rituals performed at the time of need. Talking to a religious leader can help you clarify what you may need to do and what you should not do regarding your final arrangements. Many religions also have general rules to consult such as whether cremation or burial is generally accepted.

  • Speak to a religious leader about your plans