The big questions of how you want to be remembered and what do you want to do with your possessions are routinely ignored by many people. It’s a shame, because the resulting mess is stressful and expensive for the loved ones left behind. It doesn’t have to be that way, says the Times Herald in an article wisely titled “How to make a graceful exit.”
You may not care that your loved ones are left to battle it out between each other. However, if you are like most people, once you sit down to think about it, you do care and you want to minimize the frustration, anxiety and potential tax liability for your family. You need to recognize that this planning is not just for after you die, but if you become incapacitated and unable to make decisions on your own.
Consider how much time you devoted to planning your last vacation. Remember when you had to carefully budget and plan any time you and your spouse wanted to go out without the children? You had to plan in advance. The same need for planning applies to your life and your death.
With a good estate plan in place, you can make decisions about your health care and property, while you are still alive and well. Your family can be provided for, in case you are disabled or pass away. When you are gone, your loved ones will know that you loved them enough to take care of this final piece of personal business.
The very least things you need to have in place are a will, power of attorney and health care power of attorney. While you are alive, the power of attorney permits a designated person to make decisions about your financial affairs, without needing to have a court name a conservator. The health care power of attorney allows you to name someone who will make health decisions for you, if you cannot do so.
A will provides the instructions regarding how you want your property to be distributed. Many people elect to have trusts created, so their property avoids probate. Probate is the process where the courts enforce your valid will and make sure all (just) debts, taxes and expenses have been paid, before everything is distributed as directed in your will. Some people try to avoid probate because the documents in your will become a matter of public record and anyone can access them. It’s also very important to fund any trusts, so they can achieve your goals.
Here’s the thing: if you really want to make a graceful exit, you’re going to have to spend some time planning it. You’ll want to let your loved ones know where you want certain family artifacts to go, as well as who should receive certain assets and when.
Some people like to plan their own funeral, determine what kind of memorial services they want and even purchase their coffin or an urn to contain their remains, if they wish to be cremated.
Sit down with an estate planning attorney in your state and talk about what you’d like to happen if you become too sick to make decisions, or what you’d like to happen to your possessions when you pass away. This will forever inscribe you in your family’s memory as someone who cared enough to do the right thing.
Reference: Times Herald (Nov. 30, 2018) “How to make a graceful exit”