A friend of mine recently told me this story about her mother, age 97. My friend said she hadn't yet discussed the subject of whether her mother wanted to be buried (and where) or cremated. To bring it up in a roundabout way, my friend said, "Mom, I've decided I want to be cremated. What do you think of that?"
To which her mother said, "Write down everything you want or I'll never remember."
Most of us think we'll live forever. Or our parents will. Although death and estate planning can be a sensitive topic for families, not having a plan in place can become a nightmare.
Does your family know where your wallet is? Who your primary care doctor is and his phone number? Where your financial accounts are and their numbers? Where your safety deposit box and key are? Where your will is located and who your attorney is? Where your power of attorney, living will, and medical proxy are? And finally, what your burial or cremation wishes are? A list on the refrigerator helps.
"There's a big misunderstanding that estate planning is for wealthy people," says Matthew McClintock, an estate planning attorney and spokesperson for EstatePlanning.com. "But it's about making sure whatever you own goes where you want it to go in the most efficient way possible with the minimal amount of stress on the family."
Keep copies of all legal and financial documents! Five essentials you need to prepare are listed below. Please consult pages 121-147 of my book, Elderly Parents with All Their Marbles: A Survival Guide for the Kids, for descriptions of documents.
1. An updated will or trust.
A will ensures your wishes are carried out after you die.
Everyone of legal age should have a will. Without one, the courts
can't know what your intentions are for your possessions.
A trust is an entity holding assets until a later date. It allows
the beneficiary to bypass probate.
2. Durable power of attorney for property.
This gives someone authority over your financial matters or
specified legal affairs, in the event you're hospitalized, disabled,
or incapacitated while you're alive. Power of attorney dies with you.
Usually people choose a close family member they can trust with their money.
Forms giving powers of attorney are state-specific,
unless a universal form has been authorized. Free printable forms
are available at www.LegacyWriter.com.
3. Power of attorney for medical care.
This legal form gives someone the authority to act on your
behalf regarding health-care decisions, if you become incapacitated
or unable to communicate. This form is specific by state.
Free printable forms are available at www.LegacyWriter.com
or found via an internet search for "medical power of attorney."
4. Updated beneficiary forms
Beneficiary forms for accounts will, in most cases, over-
ride your will. If you've experienced a major life change
such as a birth, death, marriage, or divorce, fill out a
new form and keep a copy.
5. Living will.
This legal form documents your health-care preferences, in
the event you are unable to speak or communicate your wishes.
In general, it delineates the terms for use of, or elimination of,
life support. This form is specific by state and not valid for EMS.
Free printable forms are at www.HCDecisions.org or do an
internet search for "living will" to find state-specific forms.
- Delray Beach, FL, Westport, MA, United States
- Undergraduate degree, Colby College; MA in teaching, Columbia Teacher's College; former high school English teacher in three states; former owner of interior design co. with advanced degree from R.I. School of Design. Published first book in 2009 titled, MINOR LEAGUE MOM: A MOTHER'S JOURNEY THROUGH THE RED SOX FARM TEAMS. Her humorous manuscript titled ELDERLY PARENTS WITH ALL THEIR MARBLES: A SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR THE KIDS was published in June, 2014. In 2015 A SURVIVAL GUIDE won a gold medal in the self-help category at the Florida Authors & Publishers Association conference. See website By CLICKING HERE.