My first question to you is this: Are there people in your life that you love?Because if the answer is yes, then please, please let them know by giving them some insight into how you would want things to be handled if you were unable to do so. One of the ultimate acts of love is having plenty of care for the people in your life to not want to saddle them with the onerous job of probating your estate, fighting with your relatives and trying to divine what your wishes were.
By contrast, imagine how it feels to have just experienced the tragic loss of your beloved sister/mother/partner/spouse, and though you are deep in grief, you know:
1) Where all her documents are,
2) Who to call to help you (attorney, financial planner, accountant, banker),
3) What she wants done with her remains,
4) Where to find the letter she told you she had written— that outlines how much you matter to her, and all the things she put in place to minimize your stress as you handle her affairs.
Let me cut to the chase: if you have a body, own any property whatsoever, have children, love anyone and/or accept the reality that you are just as mortal as the rest of us… you need some basic estate planning documents. Why? Because if you don’t have these documents you are sending an engraved letter to your state of residency that says something like this: Maybe you wonder why I’m ranting? Because not planning is selfish, unloving and in some cases, downright mean. Do me a favor— Believe me when I say that you, your life, your stuff, and your kids have value. Create plans based on where you are right now. Yet we know things change— estate planning protects you when things go better than expected, and when suddenly faced with death or disability.
Most importantly, estate planning helps preserve and strengthen the relationships you leave behind because your people get to focus on grieving rather than fighting over your intentions and your stuff.
Here is a printable checklist for getting your documents in order.
- Have you updated the beneficiaries on your retirement plans, life insurance and annuities?
- Have you written a will, power of attorney and healthcare directive? Is it current?
- Do people in your life know where to find your important documents?
- Have you written down your wishes around burial/cremation and end of life care?
What gets in the way of completing these tasks? It can be painful… sometimes we don’t know who to will our stuff to, or who we would trust with our children. Talk about this with friends and family— or comment on my blog. You simply have to make the plan that fits best RIGHT now. You can always change it. If you don’t want your children to end up wards of the state, or your partner getting booted out of the home you’ve shared for 10 years…. create estate planning documents. Please. Because you matter.
Note: I’m not an estate planning attorney. I care because everyday I witness the results of good, bad, and even no planning.