We all know we should do it, yet we will do seemingly anything but handle this necessary process. In fact, most of us will spend more time planning vacations than putting together directives for when the inevitable takes place. Something about facing our own mortality really turns us off, and I was no different until about 5 years ago. My mother suffered a severe stroke took a hard fall and over the next 20 long days we sat and watched mom in her hospital bed, the lights were on, but no one was home. One afternoon it seemed mom had a spark of recognition like she was coming back it was such an emotional moment. Thrilled that there may be hope, yet troubled, as her written directive emphatically stated to let her pass. As a family we didn’t know what to do, we knew the odds were against any recovery, but we saw a glimmer of hope, how could we not do something. Fortunately, mom was wise enough to make sure her children were not tasked with such an emotionally charged decision.
I’ll tell you this, the time to do this isn’t when it’s convenient or when the emergency hits. The time to do this is NOW. I’m not just talking about baby-boomers, it’s important for younger people to have wills, too, especially if they have children, to ensure that they’ll be cared for by the people they choose rather than their specific State. A whopping 78 percent of millennials (ages 18-36) and 64 percent of Generation Xers (ages 37-52) do not have a will.
The Pandemic has shaken things up and added even more uncertainty to things, take advantage of the time you have now to put at least the basics on paper and you don’t need to go to an attorney’s office to do it either, sites like freewill.com provide self-help tools to help you assemble a document that meets muster within your specific state. Here’s some categories from my own notebook to at:
- Advance Health Care Directive: This document enables someone else to make the decisions for your healthcare in case you are unable to. Find a form for your state at most hospital systems or National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.
- Last Will and Testament: Covid has stifled office visits in many areas so freewill.com will serve you and in some states holographic wills are allowed. Start with the basics, name an executor, name a guardian for your children, describe how to divide up your assets and of course don’t forget to sign and date it.
- Financial Power of Attorney: this allows someone the legal authority to handle your financial affairs while you are living. If you are incapacitated, in quarantine, out of the country. Choose an agent you can trust implicitly. Legal Zoom can help you with forms there.
- Update your retirement accounts: make sure your beneficiary status is up to date, so the right people get your money when you move on.
- Bank and Investment accounts: Most banks will allow you to choose someone as the Pay on Death beneficiary of your accounts. Think twice about setting up a joint account with anyone as they would be able to use that money as their own.
- Life and Disability Insurance: if you don’t have Insurance, buy some! For those that do, update your beneficiaries either on-line or with the providers paper form.
- Digital Assets: Someone needs to be able to access your email and social media accounts. Even more so if you conduct business on-line, network marketing etc. and it should all be addressed in your Financial Power of Attorney document. Don’t just make a list of your passwords and hide them in a drawer somewhere…
Now may be a great time to have that family meeting and discuss these things with your loved ones, especially those in the high-risk category. Put this at the top of your to do list, your future self and loved ones will be thankful you did.