How much time have you spent thinking about your future death? If you’re like most people, probably not much. It’s not a topic that we like to dwell on, but doing a little bit of planning now can provide you and those close to you with plenty of peace of mind. Psychological studies have shown that grief profoundly impacts our decision-making skills, and not necessarily for the better. (1) Making decisions and setting a plan in place now will ease some of the stress for your family and prevent them from making poor or rushed choices when they are in a time of shock or extreme grief. Here are some steps to take so everything is in place should an unexpected death occur.
Create A Will
Are you one of the 64% of Americans who doesn’t have a will? (2) Your will outlines what happens with your property and guardianship of your children, and designates your executor who will carry out your wishes. You don’t want to leave these decisions to the state. Make sure your spouse or other family members know how to access it when the time comes, and remember to review it regularly to ensure it is up-to-date.
Organize Legal Documents
Do you have an organized filing system, or are all your important documents in different places? Make sure your spouse or children have access to the following documents, which they will need to handle any legal details:
- Birth Certificate
- Marriage Certificate
- Social Security Card
- Automobile Titles
- Property Deeds
If you want to ensure that your family will receive the benefits you have worked hard for, list out all the details pertaining to each benefit and communicate these to your family. Be sure to include the following:
- Life Insurance
- Social Security
Communicate Account Details
Finances can get messy when someone dies. You don’t want your family scrambling for money or unable to access account information. They will have enough stress to deal with already, so save them the trouble by making a list of all your financials accounts, including the name of the bank/institution, account number, type of account, name on the account, and contact information.
- Checking Account
- Savings Account
- Brokerage Account
- Health Savings Account
- Flexible Spending Account
- College Funds
Don’t forget about debts. Your debts won’t go away just because you do. Your spouse will be responsible for taking over the debts, so do your best to prevent missed payments that could damage credit and cause undue stress. For every debt, communicate the creditor’s name, outstanding balance, name on the debt, loan terms, and the amount, timing, and method of payments.
- Home Equity Line Of Credit
- Automobile Loans
- Personal Loans
- Student Loans
- Credit Cards
Make sure your spouse is familiar with recurring household expenses, such as utilities, and how and when to pay them.
- Property Taxes
- Natural Gas
- Cable TV
- Internet Service
- House Cleaning
- Homeowner’s Association Dues
- Other Organization Membership Dues
When was the last time you reviewed your insurance policies? You most likely purchased insurance to protect those you love, so do your due diligence and verify that the various policies are current and beneficiary information is correct.
In addition to the life insurance policies that your family will benefit from, have all the details for your other policies in an easy-to-find spot. Your spouse will need to contact the companies to cancel or update the policies. This includes medical, dental, auto, long-term care, and homeowners, to name a few.
Build A Budget
An important part of developing a plan for your spouse to move forward alone will involve communicating your current spending needs. If you don’t already have a written budget, begin tracking your expenses and create one. It will be an incredible aid when planning for the future.
Work With A Trusted Advisor
Having a support system with expertise in these areas will make your planning process simpler and give you peace of mind that you have covered all your bases. Take the time now to build a relationship with an advisor and make sure your spouse and family members are involved so that if the unexpected happens, they have someone they can trust to help them handle matters.
At Mason & Associates, we believe it is worth your time to prepare for an unexpected death before it happens. We work to prepare your finances for any situation and every stage of life. As you start preparing for an unexpected death, we are here to answer any questions you may have. Contact our office today by calling us at (323) 254-3072. We look forward to helping you worry less and enjoy life more.
About Mason & Associates, Inc.
Mason & Associates, Inc. was founded in 1989, specializing in Life Planning for individuals, families and small businesses. Life Planning places a person’s core life values at the heart of the advice process and focuses on the human aspects of financial planning.
As a client, your personal story is key to our planning process. That is why we strive to build a close relationship that will encompass every aspect of your life. Together with our team of professionals, we guide you through the process of identifying what is important to you, your goals, your dreams. We then put into place a financial road map to set you on your way towards achieving your objectives.
Our responsibility does not end there. As you encounter bumps in the road, changes in goals or any other roadblocks, we are there to offer advice and guidance. We are there to celebrate your successes and cope with your challenges. We work alongside your other professionals such as your attorney and your CPA to be sure all of your legal and financial needs are aligned.