The holiday season is often the only time families can count on all being together, making December a golden opportunity to begin conversations about a host of important family financial planning issues.
Things you might want to discuss with your loved ones this year, when all generations of a family are under the same roof:
- What would you want done if you suffer a medical emergency?
- Do you have a properly executed will?
- Do you know where your insurance policies are?
- What are your funeral wishes?
- About those online accounts…
- If something happened to you, would a family member be able to step into your shoes and run the household?
Granted, these are not easy topics and certainly they don’t exactly ring with holiday cheer. But they are necessary and important things to discuss with aging parents, siblings and adult children.
We’re not suggesting that you say, “Mom, can you pass the egg nog? And by the way, do you want to be cremated or buried?” Quite the contrary. You need to pick an appropriate time and place to have sensitive discussions.
With that in mind, here are the nitty gritty details on what you should aim to accomplish with your family. (Aside from having fun and enjoying each other’s company this holiday season.)
Standards of Care
Goal: Everyone over age 18 should download, print and fill out an advance directive, a simple document that is part living will and part health care proxy.
Why: If you become incapacitated due to an injury or illness, the advance directive lets medical professionals and your family know how you’d like to be treated if hospitalized. This takes the guesswork away from medical professionals and keeps a burden off your family’s shoulders.
Goal: Find out if your loved ones have a will and, if so, if it’s current and still reflects their wishes. If they have a will, where is it kept? If they don’t have a will, put it on the to-do list.
Why: Having a properly executed will makes everything clear after a death in the family. By having a will, you can avoid nasty fights over the estate as well as over guardianship of children or special needs adults.
Goal: Locate life insurance and disability insurance policies, both personal and from employers, then make a note of where they are kept.
Why: Life insurance policies help pay for funerals, estate-related expenses and ongoing household expenses. Disability policies provide a safety net in the event of incapacitation. Knowing where these policies are, and what they cover, can make things go much more smoothly when you need to file claims.
Goal: Find out if your loved ones would like to be buried or cremated, if they’ve purchased a cemetery plot or if they have any specific funeral wishes.
Why: There are two types of people: those who plan their funerals and those who leave it up to their relatives. Whichever camp your relatives fall into, be sure to learn their wishes about a funeral as well as whether they’d prefer burial or cremation. It will take the guesswork out of matters when the time comes.
Secure Your Digital Life
Goal: Find out where online credentials are kept.
Why: It used to be that when someone passed away, there would be a paper trail for survivors to follow to bank, retirement and insurance accounts. Now, with the shift toward online transactions, it’s possible for account access – or even knowledge of accounts – to follow a person into the grave. Make a list of accounts, how to access them and what to do when accounts, from social media to subscriptions, are no longer needed. Consider using a password manager, like LastPass, to securely store and share account credentials.
Keep the House Running
Goal: Figure out how to keep a family member’s house in operation in the event of death or extended illness.
Why: Even after someone dies or is expected to be in the hospital for an extended period, the bills keep on coming. They need to be paid. The lawn needs to be mowed. Snow needs to be plowed. The lights and heat need to stay on. Determine how to accomplish all of this – either with one person taking the lead or by dividing and conquering all the necessary tasks.
We have a handy checklist we can share with you that will simplify all of these goals. It also will help you keep track of what’s done and what you still need to do. Contact us and we’ll send you a copy of the checklist.