When i'm gone: The importance of estate planning
So recently in the past week I encountered a few deaths in my family. Not really a great thing to have to deal with. But death is inevitable. We always say we never know when we are going to leave. Most of us say this, and we think this, but I don’t think a lot of us really and truly comprehend this. Maybe that’s a bit farfetched, but more like, we are accustomed to living. We have gotten accustomed to getting up every morning, going to work, taking care of our kids, going to church on Sundays, etc. In reality you can’t completely live like you won’t be here tomorrow. Here’s an example of why it is hard to take that mentality to heart. If I knew I had 24 hours to live, I would eat everything, walk down the street naked, give all my possessions away, bungee jump, and spend my last hours with my loved ones. Here’s a test, ask 5 people if they had 24 hours left to live what would they do? Share with me the craziest thing you hear. Some people will have outlandish ideas, which makes it hard for them to live everyday like they are dying.
Why think about Estate Planning
It isn’t until death hits us close to home, that many of us give a serious look at our mortality. We start giving more thought to what we would do or how we would act if we lost someone near and dear. It’s different when an immediate family member dies versus a friend of a friend. You feel bad, offer condolences and pretty much move on with your life. However, when it is a death of someone close to you, your whole foundation is shook. What you knew to be stable is now unbalanced. You have to learn to move on, but it’s hard, very hard. Sometimes you really feel like you can’t move on. All the prayers, and the “they are in a better place” speeches, are lovely, but it still doesn’t replace the pain of losing someone influential to you. What becomes equally important is what do you do with their remains? After this person has passed on, how did they want to be honored? More importantly how are they planning to pay for this? Newsflash: they are dead and they definitely aren’t pressed about paying for their burial. This becomes hard for the surviving members because a lot of us are living paycheck to paycheck and funeral services can start out at $5,000. That is a lot to shoulder as a single person, or maybe even a small group of siblings. Not to mention if this was an unforeseen death, you now have people who are in a serious struggle to pay bills because of the income that their significant other had brought in, and is now lost.
Estate Planning For the Novice
Another problem with not planning ahead is that if you have family members with different views, religions, or ideas, they may fight over how you are to be honored or laid to rest. I do not believe anyone has the desire to leave their families in turmoil, but unfortunately that’s how it can work out if you do not have your wishes laid out.
I think everyone should have a plan in place should you expire. Death is not solely for the aged; it’s visiting everyone. Not too long ago I read a Facebook post about a young girl who passed away at the age of 28. 28 years old. That’s how old I am. You should be getting married, having kids, hanging with friends and family. Not your friends and family mourning you. If I had to choose, I would want someone to expire at a ripe old age, but once again Death shows no favor. So years ago, I started a life plan which I am still working on, but because I am not married with children, all my things would go to my parents who I hope would allocate my things to my close friends. Many people don’t know what to do when it comes to an after-life plan. Here are a few ways to make it easier on your surviving friends/family once you pass on:
- Keep your ‘after-life’ plans in an accessible place- Share that with someone you really trust. When someone passes on, it’s a traumatic time and a stressful experience. It’s hard to locate items when people are not in the right state of mind, especially if you were trying to be Macguyver and hide your items in different places of the house. Your death is not a time to have a treasure hunt. Keep those items in a safe, a safety deposit box, or someplace where that trusted person can access that information in the event of your untimely demise.
- Have life insurance-Because we are accustomed to living, many of us don’t think about life insurance. That it is only for the elderly and is an unnecessary expense. It is for EVERYONE. You do not have to obtain a million dollar policy but enough to bury yourself and pay off lingering debts is a good start. If you are the main breadwinner in the house, you should have some money left over to help your significant other maintain housing expenses for a few months. Term life insurance is very affordable and can be attained through many avenues. If you are 50 and older AARP is a good place to start. Many people think auto insurance is a scam and associate that with life insurance as well. Life insurance isn’t like car insurance. You WILL use that life insurance one day.
- Have your wishes recorded-You can create a living will online or with an attorney. Write down exactly what you want when you pass, who you want to have what, and who would care for your child(ren) if you have any. This will cut down (or assist) on what is to happen once you pass on. Often times when people pass they didn’t speak about their death wishes and left their wishes to interpretation which created tons of strife within the family. Remember the Terri Schiavo situation?
No one likes to talk about their own demise or the demise of others. It’s uncomfortable and can bring up sad memories. But it’s a conversation that is necessary and important to have. Helping to take that load off of your family is a great way to continue taking care of them, even in death.