It’s not too early … or too late

Reality: We don’t know how long we will be on this earth. As unpleasant as it may be to think about, we all need to get our end-of-life wishes in writing. There are some definite steps we should take right now, no matter how young or old we are.

I requested advice from two professionals that work in this field. I contacted Karen Bennett, an attorney, and Chad Esch, a funeral director.

What they both stated as being of utmost importance was having a will and/or trust in writing before we die. Chad emphasized that it is not a good thing to list only one beneficiary with the hope that they do the right thing in sharing the inheritance. He stated that not only can it cause major hard feelings among loved ones, but it also has tax implications in gifting money.

The cost of having everything in order is a lot less when it is done while we are still alive. Once again, Chad emphasized the bad feelings that can happen if the important things are not in place.

Karen emphasized the importance of being organized. Our loved ones should not have to search for records or try to figure out what we own or how we want things to be handled. If they are not readily accessible at a time when the family is already grieving, it makes the process even harder.

Karen offered this list to get us started in organizing our assets.

¯ Just get started. Make a call to an estate planning attorney and set up a consultation. They may suggest what you should bring to the appointment.

¯ Gather your records. This includes written documents of what you own, how they are titled, and who the beneficiaries are. Bank and credit union accounts, investment statements, deeds, life insurance policies, retirement accounts, etc. Getting these in writing should show your account numbers, values, ownerships, and beneficiaries.

When my father-in-law passed away, he had a CD at a bank that had no beneficiary listed. I just happened to see it going through some files with my mother-in-law. When we went to the bank with his will and death certificate, we were told it had to go through probate. Well, it has been over a year in the process, and we still do not have it settled. I am sure he just overlooked adding a beneficiary to the CD, as he was very organized. It shows the importance of reviewing all of our accounts periodically.

¯ Get a copy of the deed to your house and every piece of real estate you own. Also, get the most recent tax bills to show what the state equalized values are.

¯ Bring existing documents you already have set up, like Powers of Attorney, Health Care Directives, Wills, Trusts, etc. These can be very helpful in updating your information.

¯ Bring a list of names, addresses, phone numbers, and dates of birth of those you want to receive your assets or are part of the decision making. Make sure these are people you trust and will make good decisions about your care and financial affairs.

Remember, this is not meant to be stressful but rather to remind us that we can get organized with these steps. Karen and Chad certainly have seen both sides of this and want our end of lives to be positive experiences when it comes to dealing with our end-of-life wishes.

Here’s wishing you a long, happy life.

Doris Puls, of D & O Decluttering and Organizing, is a professional organizer whose mission is to make a difference in the lives of the people she works with in homes and businesses. Contact her at organizealpena@gmail.com or at 989-356-9545.


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