Preparing a Will is Just the Start

Many people will procrastinate for a number of years before finally putting a last will and testament in place. Fully 60% of you haven’t even gotten around to crafting this crucial document, according to the AARP.

it’s understandable. How you settle your estate can entail hard decisions about how your loved ones will be cared for when you’re gone.

But even when you finally prepare your will, the task is not yet complete. A series of other choices need to be made. Spelling them out now can help guide your family and trusted professionals (such as financial planners, accountants and attorneys) to help fulfill all of your wishes and avoid the confusion that can arise down the road.

Where are the key docs?

Now is a good time to prepare a folder that contains all of your key information, making it easier for your heirs to navigate the inevitable bureaucratic hurdles that will pop up. Life insurance policies, retirement plans, clearly delineated beneficiaries and all other financial aspects of your life should be noted in one easy-to-locate central source.

And in this day and age, creating a digital dossier of your online is crucial (which I’ll be discussing in a future blog post).

Also, take steps now to prepare the following:

  • Designate a Healthcare Proxy. This person will make key medical decisions on your behalf (and you should also identify a back-up in case the primary healthcare proxy is unable to fulfill their duties). Beyond any specifics that the healthcare proxy spells out, have a conversation to broadly discuss your wishes should you become incapacitated.
  • Durable Power of Attorney. Identify the person that will be able to oversee all of the financial aspects of your life. Monthly and annual bills will keep coming in, and it’s crucial to avoid a lapse in payments that can lead to a contract default (such as life insurance, auto payments, etc.)
  • Diminishing Capacity letter. Ask your financial planner to help prepare key documents that discuss a specific course of action to take if dementia or any other form of incapacity becomes evident.
  • Final wishes. Remember that a will is a legal document that specifically spells out the terms and documents that will be processed as your estate is resolved. You should also create a separate letter addressing other final wishes, such as funeral plans, pet custody, etc. Even if you have shared your wishes verbally, a written document will help avoid any confusion when the time comes to address your plans.