When you die, a representative that you chose, often your surviving spouse, will file your final tax return. What happens beyond that, depends on your assets, your estate and distribution. Are you ready to consider your final phase of life? You may not know when your time will come, however it is best to consider some end of life decisions now. Today’s post can help you get your affairs together for when that time comes.
What Are Your Important Papers?
It is first important to understand what ARE your important papers. With aging you will need to face making decisions about your life. Making the decisions ahead of time protects you. It helps dictate what care you want, as well as providing guidance for your family. Listed below are some of the important papers that you need to consider having when making end of life decisions.
- Personal records: Have your social security card, drivers license, passport, birth certificate, educational information, military records, and full information for your spouse and children in one centralized area even if that is a photocopy in your safe!
- An advance health care directive (durable power of attorney/health or living will): Designates an individual of your choosing to make health care decisions if you are unable to do so. When considering health it may be helpful to keep a full list of medications taken regularly with this document, in your wallet or with other important papers!
- A last will and testament (Will): Indicates your wishes for your estate, money and belongings. The will indicates how everything will be to be dispersed to family, friends, or charitable causes after you die.
- Financial records and a durable power of attorney for your finances: Your durable power of attorney for your finances is a document that grants access to your finances so your bills if you are unable to. Other paperwork that should be stored with this includes any insurance/policy numbers, names of your banks/credit cards and account numbers, any investment information, and a copy of your most recent tax return.
- A living trust: A trust legally creates an entity to hold your assets so your estate does not have to go through probate when you die.
With all of these documents, the one key thing to remember though is, stay up to date! Doing so helps to prevent conflict or disagreements among the family, while limiting emotional burden to others at the time of your death. If any of the items are left out, out of date or forgotten, your assets, estate and health and finances may be at the whim of someone other than yourself including the estate going to probate!
What Comes After the Paperwork?
Having your important papers collected in one place is nearly as important as having them. Knowing where everything is stored, means the family will know where to look for these documents when the time comes. This may mean owning a lock-box, an in-home safe or keeping everything on file with your attorney. Put all of your important papers and copies of all legal documents in one place. Each year you should also check to see if there’s anything new to add or changes to make!
Tell Someone About Your Wishes
Now that you have all of your important papers, and they are stored together, you need to talk to your family and perhaps your family physician. Be sure to tell your executor, your lawyer, a trusted family member or friend where you put all your important papers. Someone should always know where you keep your papers in case of an emergency. After you do that, consider discussing your end-of-life preferences with your doctor. Doing so can help ensure your wishes are honored. Finally be sure to give the appropriate permissions to your doctors and lawyer to speak to your caregiver as needed. This may mean signing specific paperwork to list that person at the doctors office, hospital or with your lawyer. Forgetting this step may mean that your caregiver can not get the information they need!
Once someone dies, the ability to plan is over. Planning for the last phase in your life may seem daunting, however a well developed plan makes it easier on everyone involved. Be sure to ensure the proper handling of your health, wealth and assets as you journey. Doing so will help relieve stress for grieving loved ones, it may minimize taxes and unnecessary legal fees, and will dictate exactly how you wish your end of life to be.