they are going to die sooner or later. While we all hope it is “later”,
we should put our affairs in order for the benefit of our loved ones.
Great comfort can be achieved by knowing that advance planning for the
inevitable will have eased the trauma of your passing for your family.
All too often, when a family
member dies, relatives have no idea where the deceased’s important papers
are located. As a result, this creates an additional burden on the
grieving loved ones. By putting our affairs in order, we can simplify
the necessary responsibilities our family members will be required to handle.
Below are some of the key
aspects to consider in putting your affairs in order:
Consider a Durable power
Conference with your attorney
to draft a list of your final wishes, i.e. burial preferences, asset allocations,
etc. Visit the page on ‘What
you need to know to create your Will’.
Consider creating a
This instrument will appoint
someone of your choice to make decisions regarding life-sustaining medical
care in the event of your incapacitation.
This is given by you to
a person of your choice to make medical decisions on your behalf if you
are unable to communicate. A living will and a power of attorney are often
referred to as an “advance directive”. Most of us do not want to
consider what may happen if we become unable to make decisions ourselves,
or think it will never happen.
There have been cases, as
reported by the media, of family disagreements over the decision to terminate
life support. You may remember the case where a woman had been in
a coma for twenty years. She was, of course, unable to communicate.
Her husband wanted her to be removed from life support; her parents disagreed
and this battle went to the courts. The United States Government
even got into the fray. Eventually, the Supreme Court ruled in favor
of the husband and the woman was allowed to die. This case brought
to the general public the importance of having a living will and power
of attorney stating your wishes when you are unable to do so.
Review your Finances
Review your existing finance
and fiscal standing. This will provide a clear outline for surviving
family of what needs to be addressed.
information should be located in a place known to your beneficiaries.
List whatever debts your spouse or estate may be responsible for after
your death such as property tax, liens, etc.
all assets for your beneficiaries, such as:
Ensure details of your credit cards are accessible with outstanding balances
Mutual Fund accounts
Life insurance policy or policies
Certificates of Deposit
Stocks and bonds
Real estate holdings
401(k) & 403(b) Plans
IRA, Roth IRA
Social Security benefits
Medical insurance coverage
Any miscellaneous investments
- Account numbers
- Contact information
Be sure to list any and all
assets not covered by the above - including documented personal loans to
friends or business associates.
Gather together all
applicable personal documents:
It will greatly help your
family if all your personal and identity documents are itemized and stored
appropriately so that they can be easily accessed. These include such as
It is advisable to store these
important documents in a safe place, especially if they are all together.
A safe or fireproof box is recommended.
Social Security information
Military discharge papers
Naturalization or Citizenship
Income tax returns
Safety deposit details &
Organize any miscellaneous
insurance coverage documents:
These days we carry all
sorts of insurance cover. It will assist family if you have clearly
organized your insurance policies.
Make a list of your key
associates & advisers
Any additional Health Insurance
It can also help to make
information readily available of your key contacts such as:
Make a list of online
Executor of your will
Accountant or Financial Planner/Broker
Employer & Union Contacts
These days we all have so
many online services and forums that we access. Be it Internet banking,
municipal portals, media sites - news, Netflix etc, Facebook, Trip
Advisor, Google+, that it is advisable to make a secure list of all your
accounts and the access information. This will enable family to access
and deactivate accounts as appropriate. DO ENSURE this data is kept
Document your key personal
information & history
how to protect your identity
Identity theft has now become
a real issue, and we frequently hear stories about people who have had
their identity stolen and used to procure services or goods. As mentioned
above, we all conduct such ‘virtual’ online activities, and it can be difficult
for families to protect this once someone dies. Identity thieves
will even scour obituary notices to unwittingly pounce upon the identity
of the recently bereaved. This is made all the more easier today
in our digital world. You may wish to specify that you do not wish
an online obituary to be posted. Read further about How to Protect the
Deceased from Identity Theft.
It can help with the immediate
process of filing a death certificate and an obituary if you document out
the key specifics of your personal information and your history.
This would include listing down the following:
Everything we have listed here
may seem quite overwhelming to start organizing, but putting your affairs
in order can greatly reduce the stress for your surviving family.
Full Legal Name
Social Security Number
Date of Birth
State & City of Birth
Mother’s Maiden Name
Marital Status/Spouse or Partner
Wedding Date and Place
Armed Forces History
Driver’s License Number