There is no time like the present to get your affairs in order for your estate. It takes a little bit of time to get the documentation together, but when your family members are one day (many, many years from now) grappling with having to say goodbye to you, you will make the experience a little easier for them. You may think this is unnecessary or even morbid – but this is something that should be organized in case of emergency. If your circumstances change, you can always alter your files later.
The first thing you can do is figure out who is to be notified in the event of your death. If you have funeral plans already in place, put everything in an estate planning binder. Label the binder and keep it in a place that is easy to find. Show your kids or executor where you keep the papers.
Any insurance policies should be kept in the folder. If you have a living will, a regular will or living trusts, put them in the folder as well. Pension, retirement accounts, bank, stocks, bonds and mutual funds information can be kept in the folder. If there are other important papers like deeds, car titles, birth certificates, safe deposit box key, etc., you should explain where those items are located.
If you have small children, do you have arrangements for them in the event you die? What about a college fund? If you have living parents who depend on you, make sure their needs are also addressed.
A living will lets your family know your exact wishes in the event you become unable to communicate your desires. There will be no issues with your family members wondering what you want because it will be spelled out in detail.
Do you know what type of funeral or memorial service you would like? Do you have special requests for the event? A charity where donations should be sent? Are you an organ donor? Even though it is marked on your driver’s license, you should tell people about your wishes and even add it to the paperwork in the estate folder.
By figuring out what you want to have done now, while you are healthy and thinking clearly, you can avoid uncertainty later. Everyone will know your exact wishes. Tell your family members where these important documents are located… the contents do not necessarily have to be revealed at this time.
Getting organized for your life and beyond is a good way to feel secure in your future. If you are unable to communicate your wishes, the documents will do it for you.