Get Your Affairs In Order

May 4, 2014

From a client, wrapping up a relative’s estate, unsolicited (and used with permission):

A word of wisdom you can pass on to your clients:   Everybody needs a Will, and please keep Beneficiary information up to date and valid. These are simple responsibilities that save family members enormous amounts of time and anguish.

I cannot express these sentiments more clearly. Grief and healing we cannot avoid. But when people pass they can have their affairs in order or not, and if someone leaves behind a mess no one is better for it. (Yes, I make some money, but I’d much rather get paid on the front end to avoid the problems on the back end, even though the “pay me later” fees are usually higher.)

Wills or trusts cost not a lot, and I’ve rarely seen a situation in which cost really mattered. I see people often, however, who refuse to organize their lives around the fact that they won’t live forever. I get it, for sure, for thinking about leaving this life stretches most of us beyond our comfort zone. (Does that statement win the prize for understatement of the year?) Still, the Reaper will arrive, always! Truly, we are looking at the one area where we can say “past performance does predict future results.”

Now, I know people who are not yet ready for estate planning. (I’ve posted previously about the freight those two words—estate planning—carry. Here, they mean nothing more than a will or trust, and dealing with assets to avoid probate.) So do the deal in baby steps. Here are three:

  1. Children. Do you have minor children, or a child with special needs? If so, decide who will be responsible for them. If you do not have minor children or a child with physical or developmental challenges, go to No. 2.
  2. Assets. Identify all of your assets. I’ve had several situations, lately, in which I’ve been dealing with unclaimed assets. State laws differ, and the process of collecting on unclaimed assets can be expensive relative to the value of the assets. So, figure out what you have and where it’s located. (Properties, bank and brokerage accounts, safe deposit boxes, insurance policies, etc. Everything.) List everything and make sure at least two people know where the information is located.
  3. Make an Appointment. Pick up the phone. Call a professional. Make an appointment. (Do, please, watch out for the people who offer free dinners. If there’s no free lunch in this world, count on the fact that you’re paying for dinner.)

Be well! Really, until you complete these tasks!!!


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