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Estate Planning: Are You Ready When Your Time Comes?

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My close call with death last week instantly had me thinking... is my family ready in case I bite the big one? (By the way, I never understood that expression - what are you biting exactly?) I have a small family just my wife and Jake, our dog. My wife earns a great income as a pharmacist, so financially the show could go on without me. Still, I didn't work this hard at being Lazy to leave nothing behind. Unfortunately, as it stands, a lot would be left behind due to poor planning on my part. Here's how I'm going to try to fix that (hmm... maybe I should rewrite this post for my How To Fix site.)

Prepare a Death Folder

What's a death folder? It's a folder with a set of instructions for those left behind. It typically include all your banking, brokerage, retirement, insurance (etc.) account information. My wife has one of these... I don't. It's a shame too because she has all her accounts with USAA... one stop and I could get everything. I keep my financial accounts like my sea shell collection - scattered liberally around the world. I never intended to do it that way, it's just that I get Lazy when it comes to closing accounts and transferring money (it never seems as easy as it should be with all those pesky security issues).

I do have an Excel Spreadsheet of most of them, but good luck to my wife actually finding that. I should just work with that and e-mail it to her. She'll have a copy in her e-mail when the day comes. Of course it can't hurt to print a copy and put it in our safety deposit box... oh that's another thing on the list... get a safety deposit box.

Get a Estate Planning Lawyer

This should arguably be my first step. However, I can prepare a death folder by myself in just a few hours. Getting a lawyer and drawing up documents takes a couple of days. Fortunately, I know a great lawyer back home in Massachusetts (contact me if you are interested and I'll pass his information along). It would make things so much easier on my wife to have things in line legally.

This is another case where she's ahead of me. She's seen a sticky situation first-hand. When things aren't set up it can be a big problem.

Don't Forget Hidden Assets

I probably have more hidden assets than tangible ones. The website that you reading is one example. How do I give my wife instructions how to run it if I'm gone? She has no interest in learning it now (and rightly so, since it's really not her thing). What about my other websites like the aforementioned How To Fix? There are so many levels to handing a blog off without a hiccup. As much as I try to get ahead with my writing, I never really do... Can I expect my wife to learn HTML... much less PHP and how to optimize ads while writing personal finance content? No, I can't. I think the best option is to give my wife the access to those assets and introduce her to a couple of trusted people who can help manage things without me.

I think I put myself in a unique situation with this one... yet it's one that I have to account for.

P.S.

I really am sorry for all the morbid posts this week. I'll try to hit a happy topic for Friday. On the bright side I didn't title this, "You're Gonna Die!" in tribute to my friends' old Nintendo Contra battle cry.

Posted on July 30, 2009.

This post deals with: ... and focuses on:

Estate Planning

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6 Responses to “Estate Planning: Are You Ready When Your Time Comes?”

  1. At the very least, have a will, especially if you have kids.

    The disposition of your assets is moderately important.

    Who ends up raising your kids is VERY important.

  2. Betty says:

    Your post was an eye opener! It’s later than we think! I recently realized how important estate planning was to my family. I never realized how complex the laws surrounding managing and transferring assets have become. There were several areas where I learned how vulnerable we were and how our wishes or assets might be treated differently than we had thought.

  3. My Journey says:

    I do estate planning for a living and in addition to everything you said, I would recommend making sure who your beneficiaries are in regards to bene accounts and payable upon death contracts.

    New Supreme Court Case made sure of this:

    http://www.myjourneytomillions.com/articles/verify-your-retirement-accounts-beneficiary/

  4. Chrissy says:

    I just recently became prepared and ready for when I may die. It’s a scary subject, but it’s time to face the facts, we are all going to die one day.

  5. Becky says:

    My friend just recently (suddenly)suffered a brain hemorrhage, was on life support and her family had to make the decision as to whether or not she should be taken off. It was a difficult decision but her husband decided to pull the plug and she passed away. Making this decision was agonizing to her husband. Since then I have been really trying hard to make a living will and plan my estate better. I found a great book titled, “Die$mart” by Kathy Lane. I am now comfortable that I’ve done the basics necessary to allow me to protect my assets and minimize that trauma to my loved ones in the event I’m not able to help myself in the future.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I just recently became prepared and ready for when I may die. It’s a scary subject, but it’s time to face the facts,

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