Good Morning DINKS. Today we are discussing a touchy subject. I apologize if this seems grim, but our topic today is something that needs to be discussed. During our lives we work hard and save our money, but what happens to our money in the After Life? It is great to accumulate wealth, but what happens if we don’t live long enough to enjoy it? Today we are talking about Estate Planning and how to get our finances in order in case of an unforseen tragic event. When we are young and healthy we think that nothing will ever happen to us, we have a “superhero” mentality, and we may think that we are invincible. However, the truth is that tragedy can strike any one of us at any time. Some of us may have a home, some of us may have retirement accounts, and some of us may have emergency savings; but how many of us have an up to date Last Will and Testament?
If you were to die tomorrow, would your finances be in order?
A very important part of the Financial Planning process is Estate Planning. I know that it is difficult to talk about death, and it is especially difficult to talk about our own deaths; but unfortunately it is something that needs to be done. Think about your last bad dream, did it involve your death? What if that bad dream became a reality for your spouse and family? In the past 3 years I have lost my grandmother, my great grandmother, my best friend, and my step brother. I know from personal experience how devastating the death of a family member or close friend can be on our mental, emotional, and physical well being. Imagine the difficulty of having to deal with the finances of your spouse while you are still grieving their loss. Being financially prepared in the case of an unforseen tragic event can greatly help our loved ones through the grieving process.
As a Financial Planner I have seen Estates tear families apart; money really is the root of all evil. I think that it is comforting to know that our last wishes will be respected, and that our death will not cause havoc on our families. When I was 19 my Paternal Grandfather passed away without a Last Will and Testament. Since he lived with us, my Father declared himself the Liquidator of the Estate. At the time of his death my Grandfather was only on speaking terms with 2 of his 5 children and he had been seperated from my Grandmother for 10 years. However, once my Grandfather passed away everyone wanted a piece of the pie.
My Grandmother reminded everyone that she was still legally married to my Grandfather, and 3 of my estranged Aunts and Uncles were suddenly on our doorstep waiting for our handout. My Father knew that my Grandfather would not have wanted to share his wealth with anyone who was not active in his life. However, there was no way my Father could prove it because my Grandfather passed away without a Last Will and Testament. My younger sister and I saw how strenuous handling an Estate can be on the Liquidator and on the entire family, specially on my Father. My younger sister and I made a promise to never fight about money. We agreed to respect our parents last wishes, whether they are equally distributed or not. I am glad to say that this promise has been upheld for over 10 years. My younger sister and I may fight about other things, but we never fight about money.
How To Get Your Finances In Order
- Keep at least one Paper Statement. Even if you are going green and you prefer the convenience of Online Banking, keep a paper statement in a safe place where your spouse can have easy access if ever you should pass away. This is important because settling an estate is a lot easier with account numbers and contact information.
- Draft a Will. Having a Last Will and Testamony doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as declaring that you want to leave a universal legacy (everyting in it’s entirety) to your spouse. Or, we can declare individual beneficiaries to each of our specific accounts. Regardless of how we choose to distribute our money upon death, having it written down on our Last Will and Testatment will save our loved ones time, money, and a lot of stress.
- Talk About It. Make sure that your spouse is aware of your final wishes. Talk about your intentions, your accounts, your business, and your final arrangements. There is nothing worse than losing someone and having to decide what type of funeral we think that they would want.
- Make sure to have one Seperate Account. Usually all individual assets and all joint assets where the deceased is an account owner are frozen. In order for your spouse to prepare final arrangements and continue living during the grieving and Estate process it is important that they have access to money.
(Photo by Mr eNil)