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You are going to die

We all are. A little planning makes it easier on your survivors.

By Donna_Freedman May 6, 2011 9:29AM
Over at Dinks Finance, blogger Kristina is reeling from the loss of her 34-year-old stepbrother, killed in a traffic accident while bringing back lunch for himself and his co-workers.

The man had a wife and two kids, plus a mom and stepdad who had to make funeral  arrangements "based on what they thought my stepbrother would want," Kristina writes in this post.

"But the truth is, they were not 100 percent sure."

Here's her advice for us, the living:

Although it may seem "morbid" to talk about funeral wishes and wills, it's essential to do so. Doing this, the blogger writes, "can make the tragedy a little bit easier on our surviving family members."
An up-to-date will makes things a lot easier for the survivors, to say nothing of the executor. When was the last time you looked at your will? How much has changed since then? Perhaps you've bought a home, gotten life insurance, had a baby, amassed a gun collection. What happens to all of that when you're not around to look after it?

Daddy's dyin' -- who's got the will?

The last thing your family needs is to wonder where on earth you kept the insurance policy. And do you want arguments breaking out among survivors, a la "Mama told me I'd inherit that pearl necklace" or "You know my brother would have wanted me to have his Harley."

A clearly written will might forestall such fights. It will also make sure that your beloved classic car goes to the nephew who helped you restore it, rather than to the spouse who couldn't care less.
Go over your will and see where updates are needed. Don't have a will? Write a preliminary one, right now. Spell out what you have and who should get it. Take it down to the bank or anywhere else there might be a notary. Have your signature witnessed, then make sure your family knows where the document is.

A final, caring gesture

That will hold you until you write a "real" will. This doesn't necessarily mean getting a lawyer, by the way. "The simple will: No frills, no fuss, no anxiety" at Nolo.com suggests that you might be able to do your own. It also emphasizes that "if you do nothing else to take care of your legal affairs, you should write a will."

If you don't, "state law will determine who gets your property and a judge may decide who will raise your children (and either or both may not be whom you would have chosen)."

Remember that statement if you're tempted to put off this important chore, for reasons of either superstition or procrastination. If your life is even remotely complicated, a session with a lawyer might be the smart way to handle your will and other financial affairs.

But there's another consideration, too. Your family needs to know not just where the will is, but also where other important info can be found: insurance policies, vehicle titles, passwords to digital accounts, the songs you want sung at your memorial service.

My mother died in 2003. At least a decade earlier she had made a list of everything we needed to know, from insurance policy numbers to the fact that she and my stepfather had prepaid their cemetery plots. At the time of her death we were all too shattered to think clearly. But we didn't have to think. We had her instructions, and her wishes, spelled out clearly.

It was a loving and caring gesture. Please do it for your own family.

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3Comments
May 9, 2011 7:59AM
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I'd advise getting a lawyer if you have much in the way of assets.  My sister wrote a very simple will and screwed up all manner of things.  After various bequests (one of which was refused by the beneficiary), she left the remainder to her favorite charity.  But instead of naming it as the beneficiary of her retirement account, she named the estate.  Big error!  The estate paid income tax on it.  Had it gone straight to the charity, there would have been no tax and the charity would have received it all, tax-free.

May 9, 2011 7:08AM
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Amen! I was executor for my mother's estate & "assumed" she had her life insurance poliicies in order (her mother was on top of hers so I "assumed" my mother was). Her kids lost $28,000 to her sister even after I told her sister her other policy had not been updated it had my brother (dead 10 years) & my grandmother (dead 2 years).

 

My mother's house & car were paid off. her funeral was paid for & she had a will. it still took an attorney & 2 years to settle her estate. Never again!

May 20, 2011 12:50PM
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This is really funny, but I do not care what happens after I am gone.
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