What should you do before you die? A lot of things may come to mind- visit a tropical island, write a book, drive across the U.S., have dinner with a celebrity, sleep until noon for a week, the list goes on.
What probably didn’t come to mind is what you need to plan for in case you die. Unfortunately, death is as inevitable as taxes, and planning for it is a necessary part of being a responsible adult. Yeah, we know you’d rather spend your free time watching Netflix (which is hopefully something we can all do when we’re dead), but spending just a little time planning for your inevitable demise will allow you to have your craziest wishes met and ensures your family knows your wishes, and where the important docs are. Want to leave your house to your cat? You can. Want to play Stayin’ Alive at your funeral? You may get a few post-humus laughs.
Of course, what we plan for and what our wishes are, are unique to us, our families, our religious backgrounds and numerous other scenarios. What’s consistent across all of us though, is what we need to discuss and plan for:
Talk To Your Family + Friends
“We all like real talk. We’ll gossip about people we know. We’ll judge parenting choices. We’ll be sure to let you know what we think about Donald Trump. We’ll even talk about things that happen behind bedroom doors. But, when it comes to financial real talk and divulging the details of our family’s planning habits? We’re not having any of that.”
It doesn’t need to be this way. I recently wrote a blog post for Haven Life about why you should be talking to your friends and family about death.
Alongside your Will, life insurance is another very important death planning matter you need to figure out. A life insurance policy is a must for anyone who has financial dependents – think kids, elderly parents, a non-working spouse – though your personal situation will dictate how much of a policy you need in place.
Have kids? You want to be sure that your partner or a caregiver will have enough money to comfortably care for them. A good rule of thumb is to get a policy for 10 times your yearly gross income.
And stay at home parents, you aren’t in the clear, either! Even If you don’t work, it’s likely you still need life insurance, especially if one parent stays home with the kids or works part-time. Think of it this way, if something were to happen to you, how would your spouse afford full-time care for the kids? A policy for $250,000 or more depending on your debt and needs is a good place to start. Even if you’re single, a policy to cover your burial expenses (and the cost of a kick butt wake) is worth it.
You can get a free quote and compare prices from top insurers with Haven Life. If you uncover that you need life insurance, Haven Life also offers an online place to get a Haven Term* life insurance policy online in 20 minutes.
The younger you are the cheaper it will be, so consider a long-term policy that will suit your needs (for instance, a 30 year term policy when you get married). My husband and I both got policies when we were in our 20s with young kids. We decided on term life policies that are 20 years to ensure we covered the time period when we are raising our family.
Make A Will
We’ve all seen those movie and TV versions of a will being read to family and friends. It is usually not quite as dramatic as conniving family members and gold digging 2nd (or 3rd) spouses fighting over money. But, even if you have few assets or none, everyone over 18 needs a will. For families it’s obviously a must, even though appointing a guardian is likely on of the hardest things you’ll do in the whole process.
Even if you have no kids or pets to care for someone needs to inherit your handbag collection or vintage jewelry.
What’s a will anyway?
A will is simply a legal document that outlines your last wishes. It’s a very important document to consider since you want to make clear what your wishes and intentions are for your family, assets, and property. A will generally includes things like:
- Ownership of property,
- Guardians for kids or pets,
- Ownership of assets like stocks,
- Who inherits your business,
- And your burial wishes.
Wills can be straightforward and simple or complex-it’s really a matter of how complex your wishes are and the amount of assets and property you own. This article from Investopedia is a helpful resource.
Copy + Update Your Will
You don’t just make a will and leave it. Kids grow up, assets change, people come in and out of your life-make sure you look it over every few years. Additionally, you want to ensure you have updated copies in your possession, with your executor, and filed somewhere NOT at home.
Inventory Your Stuff
Having an inventory of your belongings is a smart thing to do for a number of reasons. It’s good for homeowner’s and renter’s insurance, but it’s also handy when you’re putting together your last wishes. While a will covers the big stuff, you may have specific items you want going to specific people. In that case having video or photo inventories is key., It’s helpful when it comes to saying who gets your LEGO collection or who gets to read your high school journals. (The answer to the second one is NO ONE – assign your BFF with the task of burning them.)
You can keep a copy of your inventory on your computer, but you should also consider keeping a digital copy with your other important files.
Get A Point Person AKA An Executor
You need a post-death point person. This person will be your executor to ensure you have all your affairs being taken care of… with care. You can either appoint your lawyer or a friend or family member to this position. This person should be someone who is organized, who you can count on, and who is really good with financial matters. For more info on how to pick an executor read this piece from AARP.
Set Up Transfer of Death Designations/Beneficiaries
If you have any kind of accounts you need to ensure someone is in charge of them if you can’t be. It doesn’t matter if it’s a $100 savings account-set up a TOD designee or beneficiary. And yes, you have to set it up for each account and asset you have. It will make it easier to avoid probate (which is costly and time-consuming). On all of my accounts my husband is either co-owner or listed as a TOD designee or beneficiary.
Make A List Of Accounts
Make a list of accounts on hand for your spouse or partner and the executor of your will. Include the URLs, account numbers, passwords, and the whole shebang. It goes without saying this shouldn’t be on paper or accessible to just anyone. Store your account list in a way that is secure, such as a password protected file or a digital copy on the cloud that is only accessible by you and your spouse or partner.
Create A Living Will/Medical Directive
In some cases people are left to make difficult decisions about your health when you can’t. And, they have to live with not knowing if they made the right decision. Don’t do that to them! It’s important to not only consider what you don’t want, like a do not resuscitate order, what kind of extreme life-saving measures you don’t prefer; but also consider what you do want such as being an organ donor.
What Do You Want To Do Before You Die?
While you’re thinking about death-it’s time to think about some things to do before you die. What are those ‘bucket list’ items that you’d be disappointed in yourself for not completing? Can you save up for that European trip you’ve always wanted to take? Spend a week on a beach with no cell phone and fruity drinks?
What Happens To Your….Remains?
Do you want to be buried? Cremated? Do you want an all white casket with your monogram on the top? An ash spreading ceremony at your favorite place? Outlining your wishes now will keep your family from trying to figure it out, and you can literally rest in peace.
And you could add some rather unusual ideas to your will-like turning your remains into fireworks. Really. It’s a thing. Or you could donate your body to be the Institute of Plastination. They take bodies and create human specimens for medical displays to educate the public and medical study.
While making these choices and plans may not be tops on your list, it will give you a sense of peace to be done with those decisions so you can go back to enjoying your regularly scheduled and fully prepared life.
Visit the sponsor of this post, Haven Life, which offers life insurance entirely online in 20 minutes. It’s simple and affordable. My two favorite things.
Don’t forget to read part 1 at Haven Life where I shared how to talk to your loved ones about death.
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. Since we’re not legal experts, you should seek advice about Wills and other personal stuff from your own counsel.
*Haven Term is a term life insurance policy issued by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111 and offered exclusively through Haven Life Insurance Agency, LLC.