DISCLAIMER: The following post outlines the writer’s personal experience with this topic. It is not intended to act as legal advice. As always, please consult your legal team with any questions about how to prepare legal items.
Time continues to tick, regardless of how we feel about it, and something that will benefit our families at the end of our time is lessening the burden of dealing with all the “stuff” we’ve accumulated year after year.
Getting your affairs in order is not always viewed as the most exciting task. Especially here, in the United States, where it seems as if talking about and preparing for your death is taboo and tends to be pushed aside for a later time.
What if you could learn some tips to prepare for your death ahead of time? Follow these steps below and you’ll be well on your way to getting your affairs in order in preparation for your death one day.
Complete the “legal” to-do items.
To start, assure that beneficiaries are set up on all bank accounts (you should inform the beneficiaries of this information as well). Then, choose a durable power of attorney. This person will be able to make legal decisions on your behalf. You should also choose a power of attorney for healthcare. This person will be able to make healthcare decisions on your behalf.
Next, complete a living will. Doing this will give you the freedom of writing down exactly what you desire (like, for example, anything pertaining to medical decisions). A living will takes effect while you are still living. You should also create a last will and testament. This will describe your wishes for your property and your minor children, if applicable.
Lastly, obtain a life insurance policy if you don’t already have one. Make sure to inform your heirs of the policy, and where the information is located.
Keep account information for your home in order.
Make sure to write down all of your accounts (banking, utility, investment institutions, emails, social media, etc.) and all the passwords someone might need to obtain access. For any accounts with bills due, be clear about when and how bills need to be paid. Keep information together that pertains to all of your current credit cards, debit cards, log-in usernames/passwords, HSA information (if applicable), and car titles.
You should also complete a Transfer on Death (TOD) deed of your home. This will allow you to transfer ownership of your home to a designee. You’ll need to file the TOD with your county and inform the person you are transferring ownership to upon your death. They will need to provide your death certificate and their ID to the local clerk’s office. This will avoid probate, and will save thousands of dollars.
Plan for what will happen next.
Have you heard of a funeral planning declaration? This will give you a say in the disposition of your body, services that you desire, and memorial and merchandise information. Planning this ahead of time will take a huge burden off of your family. Start by discussing your wishes with those closest to you; inform people of your wishes and the reasoning behind them. If everyone is on the same page, this will prevent confusion once you are gone.
You can purchase a binder for this and clearly label it. Then, inform a trusted source where to locate it upon your death. Consider keeping it in a firesafe with all of the above information included in it. You’ll want to clearly label all of the contents to avoid confusion.
Start “death cleaning” at any age.
Lastly, go through all of your items and either toss them, donate them, or label them. If you have items that you cherish, but know that they won’t be sentimental to others, put them in a box. The box can be labeled “Throw Away” and one day your family can go through the items without the burden of keeping trinkets that aren’t meaningful to them. Labeling the box gives them permission to get rid of the items if they desire.
Don’t let the above steps overwhelm you. Invest in taking the time to complete one step at a time. The sooner you start, the better you’ll feel. Your home will become more organized, and the peace you’ll feel once everything is accomplished will be worth it–not only for you, but your family as well.