It’s never too early to make plans that will help your loved ones after you’re gone.
- An end-of-life plan is essential to protect your loved ones
- Make insurance part of your plan
- Involve your family in the planning process
It’s not something most of us want to think about, but the truth is that it’s never too early to start thinking about end-of-life planning. The future is uncertain, and you need to be prepared if the worst should happen. Ask yourself – will your family know what to do? What bills need to be paid? How much debt do you carry? Where is the title to the car, the life insurance policy, the passwords to bank accounts and credit cards?
An end-of-life plan ensures that your loved ones won’t have to deal with financial or legal troubles on top of grieving your loss. Below, we’ll walk you through eight essential steps for creating an end-of-life plan.
1. Get life insurance
This should be at the top of your list. Life insurance establishes a safety net for your family, including expenses no one wants to think about, such as funeral costs or unpaid debts. The good news is that It’s relatively easy to get started. It takes only a few minutes to get a quote. However, it can be tricky to figure out exactly how much you need. It may be best to ask a professional.
2. Write a will and pick your beneficiaries
There’s a difference between naming someone in a will and selecting them as a beneficiary. Both of these options are necessary tools to plan your estate and distribute your assets after your death. The chief difference is that assets with designated beneficiaries operate independently from a will and can usually bypass probate. Assets in a will are subject to probate.
Estates often go through probate upon the death of a loved one. This process can be expensive and time-consuming, especially if the authenticity of the will needs to be proven in court. Naming a beneficiary means less time in court and saves the cost of attorney fees and filing fees. It can also cut down on confusion. If you put an asset in your will and have also designated it to a beneficiary, then the terms of the will can be ignored.
So why even write a will? There are many things a will can do that designated beneficiaries can’t, such as naming a guardian for a minor child, distributing assets of sentimental value, and passing on personal belongings.
3. Plan your funeral
It’s difficult to think about planning your own funeral, but there are several good reasons to do it.
- Take the load off your family. If you don’t have a plan in place when you’ve passed away, the burden falls on your family to make hard decisions at the worst possible time. Burial or cremation? Open or closed casket? What do you want on your epitaph? How much should they spend?
- Pay in advance. Not only do you want to have enough money set aside for your funeral, but it needs to be in an account that your loved ones can actually access, such as a funeral trust or with funeral insurance.
- Give your family space to grieve. If you remove the burden of planning and paying for your funeral, your family and friends will have the emotional space to heal and find closure.
Funeral planning is one of the kindest things you can do for your family and should definitely be part of your end-of-life plan.
4. Choose your power of attorney
You won’t be around to make end-of-life decisions so you’ll need someone to do that for you. Choose your spouse, another family member, or a close friend to manage your affairs. This avoids the confusion and potential problems that will inevitably come up if no power of attorney is assigned.
5. Keep a record of your crucial information
It’s rare that someone keeps a running list of where their important documents are, but it can sure make life easier for your family after you’ve gone. Be sure to include financial information (retirement plans, savings, college funds, mortgage) and non-financial information (birth and marriage certificates, deed to the house, title to the car, passports, etc.) The best advice is to keep a list, keep it safe, and go over it at least once a year.
6. Create a “digital will”
Take charge of your digital life and make sure your loved ones can easily access it. This includes files on your computer, bank accounts, and social media. Here are a few tips:
- Back up everything. If there are any files or data that you want to preserve (videos, songs, blog posts), download them now rather than force your family to spend hours negotiating with third-party companies.
- Set up legacy contacts. Many social media sites like Facebook and Instagram let you designate someone as your “legacy contact.” This person has permission to delete your account, leave it active, or memorialize it.
- Manage your email. Different email platforms have different rules and protocols regarding access to the email account of someone who’s deceased. You may not get complete access, but you can at least turn off some services.
Since we live online now more than ever, it only makes sense to include your digital assets in your end-of-life plan.
7. Talk to your family
All the planning in the world won’t be useful if your family and close friends aren’t aware of what’s in store after your death. Sit down and talk it through with them. It won’t be easy, but it will save a lot of heartache and headache down the road.
8. Keep it simple
Although end-of-life planning can be an uncomfortable and sad process, it doesn’t have to be complicated. By taking a few simple steps now, you can guarantee that your loved ones know what you want and that they’re cared for after you’re gone.