Estate Planning Today in Case of Unexpected Tomorrows

It can happen in the blink of an eye – your carefree day can change in a moment, causing sudden death, whether by illness or accident, leaving your family shocked, heart broken, and left with the confusion of dealing with your assets and the state of your financial affairs.  While this is never a topic one wants to dwell on, the reality is that this does happen more often than you think.

Judy Malone was 57 years old when cancer took her husband’s life.  After 30 years Judy was faced with planning her husband’s funeral, comforting their children and grandchildren, and managing a short leave of absence from her job to tend to her own needs and the reality of facing life without her husband.

During this time Judy realized quickly that she was facing an uphill struggle with unanswered questions and confusion.  They never did take the time to talk about “what if”.   Suddenly, that time was here. Judy didn’t know what kind of life insurance they had, where the policy was, where their house insurance papers were, how to access records of all of their banking and investment accounts, and more. 

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Protecting yourself and your spouse or partner as important on the first day of marriage as it is 30, 40, 50 years into your relationship.   It’s equally important to make sure that you are looking after your estate once you are alone and again should you remarry.

Have the Talk

There is no time like the present to sit down talk about what you will each need to do in case of an unfortunate and unexpected sudden accident illness resulting in death, or a prolonged illness resulting in unexpected medical care needs. While it may not be the most joyful conversation to have, having plans in place is sure to bring you both peace of mind, knowing that you are both looking after each other.

Preparing Estate Documents

Early on it is important to make sure that all important documents are in one place.  It should be in a location that is accessible and recognizable, and contain all the documents you should need including: insurance policies, marriage, birth and death certificates, bank information, emergency contact information, your will, durable powers of attorney for health care and finances listed, and even your social media digital assets passwords.   Some couples will put these documents in a colored folder or binder, and will alert key family members as to where it is kept in the house in case they need to access it for them. You should also discuss any retirement accounts from current and past employers and make sure that your spouse is listed as your beneficiary.

Share Access to Finances

Joint bank accounts are important for paying monthly bills, and it is important that both people have access to and know how to handle all the finances.  Sadly, there are still some couples that do keep completely separate bank accounts, and when one passes away  the remaining spouse may  not always have the account numbers and passwords to the bank accounts or credit card accounts.  Unfortunately mortgages and other bills do not take bereavement leave; they will still need to be paid each month and you need to be able to access the funds to pay those bills. 

Talk to an Estate Planner

Do you really need an estate planner?  While most couples will take the initial and important step of creating a will, depending on the size of your estate and your finances, an estate plan may be as important.  An estate planner is an individual who will guide you and your spouse through the steps to plan for the management and distribution of assets and any legacy wishes.   The estate planner may also be invaluable when it comes to advice about estate taxes and fees for heirs.  An estate plan is not just important in case of a death. A complete estate plan includes important steps and documentation for steps to be carried out in the event you should become medically or otherwise somehow incapacitated and cannot manage your financial affairs yourself.  Your estate planner will help you understand what you need to do to make sure that you, your family, and your assets are protected in the future.

Estate planning strategies may be complicated, which is why there are trusted professionals like the team at Granite Financial Group who are able to sit down and create a thorough estate plan that will focus on each of your needs in the event of one or both of you passing away, and ensure your wishes are carried out.