Death is not a pleasant eventuality to prepare for and many of us try not to think about it. Still it is one of the most important possibilities to prepare for. Not preparing leaves other people to decide what will happen to your body, children, pets, and possessions. Preparing for death is not just a depressing preparation for your demise. It can also ensure that your golden years stay yours instead of being hijacked by the medical system or well meaning relatives.
Life insurance is vital for your family’s ability to care for you and themselves when you have passed on. There are many ways that it can be used.
The first and most likely way would be funeral expenses. The average cost today is right around $6600. It’s is bizarre how much your final real estate is going to cost. Take a look at these expenses:
- Casket (wood or metal), $1000-3000
- Clergy expense, $150+
- Embalming fees, $500-600
- Flowers, $200+
- Grave marker, $1000+
- Grave plot, $400-10,000+
- Hearse, $300
- …and on and on and on.
Even if you decide to be cremated, it will cost hundreds of dollars. It doesn’t matter if you want to be placed in a coffin or (my new favorite) have your remains turned into a tree. Life insurance will help pay to for your body’s disposal, and, very important, the younger you are when you buy life insurance, the cheaper it will be.
A will marks out your wishes when your life ends, but, shockingly, most Americans do not have a will in place. A will can make certain that your remains are cared for in the way you wish, insure that your stuff goes where and to whom you want it, whether that’s to family members or donated to charity. You can name who you want in charge of making sure your wishes are respected as your executor. This could be a friend, family member or a lawyer.
If you die without a will, generally your spouse will inherit your assets, but you will, no doubt, have special people in your life that you want to remember in a special way. Without a will, those wishes may or may not be followed. Not having this important document leaves too much to chance and puts too much power in the hands of the state, including the guardianship of your children, if you’re unmarried.
Most folks avoid drafting a will because they don’t want to deal with the reality of their own mortality, but not writing a will doesn’t help you live a single day longer! A will is an easy thing to postpone until “tomorrow”, but even someone of meager means should sit down and take the time to write this out. Perhaps all you can leave a loved one is a heartfelt letter or a small family memento. Those could have immeasurable value to someone after your death.
Do Your Own Will has a free form you can fill out to produce an official will, along with instructions. It’s a very general format and you’ll want to add details regarding specific gifts and bequeathments and other final requests. Legal Contracts is another helpful site with Last Will and Testament forms.
Living wills are different from regular wills. This document makes your wishes clear when you are still alive but not in control of either your state of mind or physical care. It keeps your loved ones from having to make medical choices for you because you have already made them yourself ahead of time. For example, if you are in a coma, a living will could make official your decision to be taken off support long should such an event happen. Your children or spouse aren’t put in the position of making that choice for you.
Living wills can also be used to determine care in your old age or in terminal care. You and your children may have different views about what is best for you. They, caring about your health may go overboard in making 100% healthy choices for you. On the other hand you may want to enjoy chocolate and ice cream in your old age. Having a living will allows you to make those choices for yourself and have your ice cream even if your children would have you live on vegetable smoothies and bran muffins.
Trust Funds And Allowances
Setting money aside for the ones you love can even be done after death. You can even put conditions on it. For example your children will get the money from your savings account and investments, but not until they turn eighteen, 21, or some other age that you determine. You set the dollar amount they receive per month, quarter, or year. A trust fund allows you to set up a system to help continue care for special needs kids or other family members.
It’s also handy, let’s be honest, to control the flow of money whose judgement may sometimes be questionable. They receive financial support in small, regular amounts rather than one lump sum.
In short, it’s a way to continue providing a level of financial help to those you love long after you’re gone. Trust funds aren’t just for millionaires, and it’s something to consider if you have savings and investments.
Child/ Pet Guardianship
One of the most important items of business your will will map out is who you want to raise your children should you pass on. The last thing you want for a child who who has just lost a parent to also face uncertainty about what will happen to them.
We want our children to still have a stable environment when growing up. We want to be able to pass our belief systems on to them even when we are gone. We want them be with people that treat them as equal family members. Most of all, we don’t want multiple family members fighting over their custody. These are all important subjects to discuss as a couple and with your older children.
The same is true of a beloved pet. Many pets left behind by death do not have a guardianship prepared for them. These pets often end up in a shelter. Discuss with family and friend who would be willing to take care of your pet. You may believe someone would take you furry friend only to discover an allergy prevents them from doing so. Discuss the possibility of setting up a vet trust or pet care allowance with them.
Death preparedness is a part of the bigger picture of prepping — no one lives forever. Planning ahead for a time when we won’t be around is a little like taking a dose of particularly noxious medicine. We know it has to be done, we know we’ll feel better once it’s been swallowed, but it’s hard taking that first gulp. If you do nothing else today, go to one of the websites listed above and create a basic Last Will and Testament. Add your own personal requests, sign it, have someone witness your signature, date, and seal in an envelope.
There. You’re done. You can always go back and amend the document but should something happen in the meantime, this first important base is covered.
(Be sure to store a copy of your will in a safe, safe deposit box, with an attorney, or a trusted loved one.)