This is a guest post from Trisha Wagner, a freelance writer for DestroyDebt.com, a debt community featuring debt forums. Trisha writes regularly on the topics of getting out of debt and personal finance.
Dealing with the death of a loved one is the hardest thing we will face in our lives. There are few topics that invoke the immediate desire to “not talk about it” as the thought of what you will do when you lose that special person or thinking about leaving your loved ones behind. Sadly, dealing with death is a reality of life and while your knee jerk reaction is to deny thinking of the inevitable, by organizing your estate today you are taking steps to ensure your loved ones don't have additional worries during an already painful time.
- Everyone needs a basic estate plan, regardless of net worth. A common myth that makes it easier to avoid estate planning is the thought that only the wealthy need to make arrangements for their finances after death. In reality, everyone needs to have a basic plan to ensure their personal and financial goals are met. An estate plan includes a will, an assignment of power of attorney, a living well (medical power of attorney) and if reasonable a trust. To ensure your plans fall within Federal and State law you may wish to consult an attorney if the details of your estate plan are complex.
- Take inventory of your assets and debts. In order to truly make life easier for your loved ones you must fully understand where you stand financially and determine how you wish it to be distributed to your heirs. If you do not make the decision, (in writing) the state will make the decision without regard to your wishes or the needs of your family. Don’t forget to take into consideration any debt that you owe. Contrary to popular thought, debt is not forgiven when you die. While it is rare for families to be held accountable out of their own pocket, your assets or property can be sold to pay off your debt reducing the inheritance you may have intended for your family.
- Assigning power of attorney. One of the most important decisions you will make is deciding who you want to legally act on your behalf. You may select your spouse, an adult child or a friend. The main requirement is picking someone you trust completely who will ensure your wishes are followed. Since no one is able to predict or prevent illnesses that may render us unable to speak on our behalf, it is equally important to have a living will or health care power of attorney to guarantee life or death health care decisions are handled in the way you would want.
- Talk to your loved ones about your decisions. To avoid surprises that will add emotional distress during an already difficult time, make the effort to share with your loved ones you wishes to help them better understand your decisions. Ultimately you are in charge of your estate planning, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to have those directly affected included in the process.