It’s upsetting and sad. It can be terrifying to think about. But the truth is that it’s going to happen to all of us.
Death. Just as certain as taxes.
This may not be the most uplifting post about personal finance, but it is certainly one of the most important parts of financial planning. You want to make sure that your final wishes are carried out the way you want. You don’t want to leave your family or appointed heir with a financial mess, especially during a very stressful and emotional time. It’s in the interest of those you leave behind that you leave explicit directives about what happens to your estate when you pass away.
It’s not only for what happens to you after you pass away. You also need to have documents in places should you have a major life-threatening accident or incident and cannot make medical or financial decisions for yourself. This is especially critical as a single person because you don’t have a spouse who can legally step in to make these decisions. You could be hit by a tram and end up in a hospital in a coma with your family needing to get to important financial information. Don’t think this could happen to you? Neither did one of my former co-workers when she was working overseas.
Here are my tips for getting your affairs in order before a life-threatening event happens:
At minimum, prepare a state-specific will. You need to have a will so that you can communicate your final wishes when you pass away. Without a will, your estate is subject to the state deciding what happens to your fortunes. If you move to a different state (here in the United States), you have to draft a new will as wills are specific to each state. Don’t let someone else take control over the things you worked so hard to build over the years.
Consult with a financial planner about additional documents that are appropriate for you. There are other documents that you may want to consider, including a trust or a living will that will provide health directives if you cannot make those decisions for yourself. You may also want to consider having a power of attorney for your finances and your health decisions. Talk to a financial planner who can help you decide which documents are right for your situation.
Make sure you communicate your wishes to trusted family or friends. Someone that you trust needs to know where all of your important documents are in case of an emergency. What would happen if, God forbid, you were hit by a truck and were lying in a coma? Would any of your family members know how to access your information? Locate a designated spot for all of your important information and let that one person know where it is located. It will give both you and your family peace of mind in case of a crisis and will alleviate some of the worry and anxiety during a stressful time.