Life can be a camp site. Always leave the camp site in better condition than you found it.
Just the other day, I met a man whose father died suddenly back in IL where he grew up. He was returning home to CA from the memorial. The man shared his father became suddenly sick. Within days of being admitted to the hospital, they called and told him to get there quick. He said that when he arrived, his father took four breaths and passed.
I could see the shock and numbness in this man’s being from the experience of his father’s passing. The man said his parents were by no means hoarders but that he felt overwhelmed by his sadness and at the possibility of having to go through the house and make the final settlement of his father’s affairs.
Our culture is definitely shy about death. We celebrate and plan for birth. When planning to have a baby, we attain the best doctor we can, we read books on pregnancy, organize for the baby’s arrival and we prepare the nursery. But death … we’d rather not think about. It is understandable, but as in the story above, it may in fact be one of the things we should do.
We know how hard things will be for our family in the time after we are gone, but we are not helpless. We feel helpless in many ways when we think about our death – the one thing in life we can never hope to control. But we can in fact do something right now to make that burden of that great transition a little less heavy for our loved ones.
5 important things that you can do
Attain a will or trust
Establish a power of attorney or springing power of attorney (see my previous article on this subject)
Create a Living Will, Health Directive or attain the “Five Wishes”
Consider pre-planning your Funeral, Memorial or Celebration of Life
Convey your plan to your family or designated trustee
I’d like to talk some more about attaining a will. Maybe you thought it wasn’t necessary. It is. Even a person of modest means needs a trust or a will. A trust or a will conveys your wishes and legally indicates how your property will be distributed when you are gone.
Depending upon the laws in your state, a trust can save your family 3-10% in probate court and attorney costs, not to mention the time it takes to go through the process that can be months and even years.
Most people want to keep assets in the family – and avoid big chunks of money going to probate lawyers and courts. Additionally, they want to keep peace in the family. Creating an estate plan and communicating that plan to whomever has agreed to handle your affairs is important.
However, as is often the case, when you start preparing legal documents there will be many new terms that can be confusing. What form of will should you make? How should you do it?
Must-know-terms for your plan
Will: It is a written declaration that names someone to manage your estate and how to distribute your property at death. You must sign, date and have your will witnessed.
Holographic Will: A will made out entirely in your own hand.
Trust: It is a legal vehicle where a property is held by one party for the benefit of another. Property of any sort may be held in a trust. Trusts may be provide benefits in estate planning, asset protection and taxes. It’s important to research the probate & estate planning laws in your state and find out if a trust or will is appropriate for your situation.
Irrevocable Trust: After you place property into an irrevocable trust, you can’t retrieve the property. For all intents and purposes, that property now belongs to the trust.
Revocable Trust: Your property is placed into the trust. You can undo the transfer by removing the property and terminating the trust.
Power of Attorney: Gives an appointed person power to act on your behalf in private, business and legal affairs. You can depict how much power your appointee has and in which circumstances they have the right to act on your behalf. (See article on powers of attorney)
We all know that the end of life can be a time, where many are so ill that they may have difficulty in communicating clearly about what they wish and why. Because this can happen to you, you should also seriously consider making preparations for this situation as early as possible.
Health Care Directive, Living Will or the Five Wishes:
A Health Care Directive or Living Will is a legal document in which a person specifies what actions should be taken for their health if they are no longer able to make decisions for themselves because of illness or incapacity.
Did you know that there is an alternative to A Health Care Directive or Living Will which is called The Five Wishes?
Five Wishes lets your family and doctors know:
– Who you want to make health care decisions for you when you can’t make them.
– The kind of medical treatment you want or don’t want.
– How comfortable you want to be.
– How you want people to treat you.
– What you want your loved ones to know.
More than 23 million copies of Five Wishes are in circulation across the nation, distributed by more than 40,000 organizations. Five Wishes meets the legal requirements in 42 states and is useful in 50 of them.
More help for you
This has just been a brief overview of the things you should consider with regard to your last time. It is obviously difficult to think about, but you will discover that once you get started it will actually be a relief to get things settled. It will also give you a feeling of comfort, knowing that you have done your best to support your loved ones even in a time, where you will no longer be among them physically.
In an article in Psychology Today Dr. Lawrence R Samuel, Ph.D., wrote something which really moved me and made me want to write this post:
“Over the past century, death and sex battled it out to be the number one unmentionable in America; these two topics were most reflective of our shame and embarrassment when it comes to all corporeal matters. But death has surged way ahead of sex …”
Think about what this means … death is something that is so unmentionable that we are often too late in making a will that would make things easier for the people we care about – and for ourselves in the last time!
But it need not be like this for you. I would like to help you with this difficult matter. So please consider obtaining legal advice today.
Below are some more resources for you. Take your time to familiarize yourself with the ones that feel most right for you. And let me know if you need any guidance.
Please share your thoughts and experiences below. Other’s will benefit from your comments and your thoughts.
Who gets grandma’s yellow pie plate workbook
When I’m Gone: Practical Notes For Those You Leave Behind
Death for Beginners: Your No-Nonsense, Money-Saving Guide to Planning for the Inevitable
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing
Quicken Will Maker Plus 2015 Edition: Book & Software Kit