Being financially responsible typically includes the important legal documents of a will, financial power of attorney, and advanced medical directives.
There are a few more steps you can take beyond the will. Many people do not think through all the little decisions that will need to be made when your time on Earth has ended: a hurting or grieving spouse may not think clearly & the closest relative may be a thousand miles away.
Spending a few hours gathering your documents & sharing your thoughts can be a final blessing to your family and friends.
Writing down your wishes for funeral services is not just an exercise for the older generation. A brief conversation with your spouse and a few notes with another relative (in case the spouse isn’t available to make decisions) can be a good road map to make things easier during this difficult time. Include preference on burial or cremation, special songs or poems, and final resting place.
Location, location, location
You need to let someone know where to find your valid will. We keep ours in a safety deposit box with one of our parents as a key holder & signer – we double-checked with the bank that they could access the box in time of death.
Some people opt to keep their signed wills at home in a safe, locked file cabinet, or even the mostly fire-proof freezer. Tell a trusted friend or relative where to locate wills easily and quickly.
Guardians and trustees of children
Guardianship and Financial Trusts will be covered in the legal documents. You can provide other details for the guardians and trustees.
For the children’s guardians, write a letter of what you hope and dream about for your children. Mention church sacraments, music lessons, sports participation, summer camp, or trips to grandparents in the summertime.
To the assets’ trustee, detail how you would like the funds to pay or co-pay for cars, computers, proms, college expenses, moving expenses, apartment security deposits, weddings, etc.
In Heaven, we may no longer need our possessions but someone will have to deal with them on Earth. Write-up how you would like to see this handled.
Give permission to use the estate’s assets to move your grandmother’s Duncan Phyfe table to a relative’s house. Also give permission to donate all the household items that will not be needed by the children and mention your preferred charity.
Create a list of items you want to go to a specific person if not already in the will. Include a list of the items you want kept for your children to have in their adulthood. Describe why the item is important to you and the history behind it – otherwise it’s just another candy dish.
Your notes will be your voice to help make sorting easier.
The mail used to be a tattle-tell of a person’s business. Now, most business is conducted online – including statements of accounts. Create a master list of all companies where you have business for banking, investments, credit cards, mortgages, monthly household expenses, and insurance.
If you keep paper statements, include this storage location when you let someone know where to find your will. We always keep them in a bright green folder on my closet shelf. Considering I’ve moved 8 times, this is consistent from house to house.
We are increasing our online identities every day. Beyond the online access to financial accounts, consider updating a list of usernames and passwords for all social media. You may not live forever on this Earth, but your facebook and LinkedIn page just might. This can be as simple as sealing up the list and placing with the wills.
We are fairly frank about estate planning in our family since my parents have a family business and my husband was in a dangerous occupation with the military. Our young adult children get a quick update on things several times a year.
Do your adult children know where to find your papers? Do they know your wishes?
If you haven’t discussed these things with your parents, why not let them know you are doing this yourself and ask if they have anything they would like to share with you?
Your final gift
Dave Ramsey discusses many of these topics as part of a Legacy Drawer – the final gift to your family. The biggest investment of time will be the first time you tackle these issues. An annual update should take only an afternoon.
Have you made a will? What other preparations have you made for leaving Earth? Meet us in the comments.