I’m young, but I’m also a realist. People die. Death is unavoidable and inevitable. Recently, my mother-in-law passed away unexpectedly. The events that ensued immediately following were stressful to say the least. If I can help just one person with this blog, it’s worth it for me to write.
It’s the age-old question; “what happens when you die?” Well for starters, your family is grieving, but they are also left with insurmountable messes to clean up. I understand that nobody thinks they’re going to die tomorrow, but there are still many ways you can prepare your loved ones for your passing.
Take the time to put together a will, possibly a trust, medical POA, POA and living will. If you have young children, you will want to consider guardianship should you and your spouse pass at the same time or if you’re a single parent. An attorney can assist with all of this. Consider naming your children as executors once they are 18. My mother-in-law did her will when my husband was 15 and named one of her relatives instead.
- If you are a single person, or don’t have joint accounts, you want to make sure your bank accounts are titled as “payable on death.” Lesson learned; her bank accounts were frozen the day she passed. That mortgage we needed to pay had to wait.
- If you have a safety deposit box, make sure there are two names on it. Also, if you have any idea that a loved one might pass away, get things out of the safety deposit box before they pass. Legally, once you notify the bank that a person has passed, the box is frozen. We only grabbed the will prior but were locked out of the rest. And now it’s inventoried towards the estate.
- As we are now in the digital age, you may want to consider storing your passwords somewhere safe and electronically. Most electronic password programs have a feature where you can appoint someone access if you die. Gmail has a similar feature. Make sure someone knows your password on your cell phone or tablet. All these things will be very helpful to your family.
- Consider putting together a folder (whether electronic or paper) that has important account statements, bank statements, 401(k) statements, bills, etc. No family member wants to start riffling through your things when you pass looking for policies you might have.
- Make sure your wishes are clear: do you want a viewing service, funeral, etc.? Is the information in your will different than what you told your family? Things change and people change, so make sure a trusted family member knows these wishes. Have these conversations, because although they are difficult, they are necessary.
And finally, because I’m more of an animal person than a people person; what happens to your pets? Have you talked to a friend or family member about keeping your pets? Consider talking to your vet and having a note on file there. I don’t care if it’s a dog, cat, bunny or guinea pig, please don’t make your family members make the decision of what happens to your pets.
Signed – a grieving, exhausted, emotional daughter-in-law
The views expressed are not a substitute for professional guidance in financial, tax, estate planning or legal matters. Please see a professional regarding your own individual circumstances.