End of Life Planning: Being Prepared Is Only the Beginning

The Chamberlain Law Firm

The subject of death is often times treated as a taboo in today’s society, and some people would go to great lengths to avoid talking about it. But it is very important that we are ready and prepared for it, even if not talking about the subject directly. That’s because, when the time finally comes, having an end of life plan in place will be of great help to make the lives of loved ones less complicated.

Most people believe that a last will and testament and life insurance is good enough, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. We accumulate a lot of private information, documents, files, property and investments (sometimes debt) throughout our lives and some of the documentation and details may be lost or forgotten along the way. All of this must be sorted out after death, and it’s not a small thing, especially in our modern age.

Social media is a good example: if you don’t write down your password for your loved ones to find, just imagine the hassle they will go through to get access. But that is easy: write the password down right now and put it in the safe. Done. In this article we want to talk about all the other things people don’t usually think about. Think of this as an overview, something to get you started on how to do end of life planning.

Gathering Documents

As with any complex task, the best way to go about it is to break it down and create a to-do list with smaller tasks. To be more specific, an end of life planning checklist. Here you can write down all the documents that you need to gather and important information that needs to be written down, whether it is government documentation or email passwords.

You can do it using a computer, and have everything digital, but you can still gather the documents in good old fashion paper format. It’s also a good thing to think about where you are going to store everything, as it must be kept safe and protected.

Here’s a handy list of some of the documents you might want to gather:

  • Will and/or Trust: this is the big one. These are the legal documents that control the distribution of your property. If they are accessible in a safe secure place, it will save your loved ones a lot of time and expense.
  • Birth certificate: this will be necessary early on for your loved ones, so keep it at the top of your documents
  • Marriage or divorce certificate: this document is especially relevant for your children
  • Life insurance policy documentation
  • Tax documents
  • Loan documents
  • Deeds and real estate documents
  • Military service documentation
  • Banking/investment information and documentation

Those are just a few examples of the kind of documents you will need to find, but it’s not an exhaustive list. Having all of this, plus documentation/information on anything else that needs to be addressed after your passing, will save your loved ones a lot of time trying to put it all together without your help.

Gathering Important Information

Some of the things that people don’t necessarily think of when asking what to take into account for end of life planning is “information.” We have a lot of information that other people just don’t have access to. This is not only social media accounts and email passwords – although, those are also very important and should be included.

If you keep photos and videos on a cloud service, having the password may be the only way to access them. Also, think of all of the passwords that you use regularly: on your phone, tablet, computer, etc. It’s also a good idea to write down safe combinations, where you keep your house keys, your gate codes, and all of the other little things that we take for granted that other people have no idea.

But not only that, do your loved ones know who your accountant or your lawyer is? That is information that can make a big difference, and should definitely be on the end of life preparation checklist. Other things to consider are funeral instructions and stating your desire for cremation or burial. You can also add letters to your loved ones to the list. Maybe add an audio recording or even make a video for them as well.

Keeping the Information and Documents in a Safe Place

Gathering all of the documents and figuring out all of the information you will need is the first step. Now that you have all that you need (or have a general idea of what you will need to find), the next step is to keep it all safe and available for your loved ones, thus finishing your end of life planning. For now.

It’s a good idea to re-visit your end of life plans at least every year, as keeping information and documents up to date is important. If you are keeping it all digitally, organizing your files in a way that other people can easily navigate is essential: if the digital files and archives are all over the place, it will make life more complicated, instead of easier, for whoever needs to access them.

Taking steps to secure your files against online attacks is also highly recommended, as some of this end of life information is very sensitive. The same goes if you are keeping everything in a physical format: remember to always keep it away from prying eyes and where it cannot be damaged. The last thing to remember is to tell your loved ones or someone you trust about the end of life planning what you are doing, so that they know where to find the information when the time comes.

If you still have questions about how to do end of life planning, especially with your estate plan, or you just need more guidance on what to do, please contact The Chamberlain Law Firm at (201) 273-9763, or at ajc@thechamberlainlawfirm.com.

This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice. In the event you would like to speak with a lawyer about the specifics of your case, contact The Chamberlain Law Firm at (201) 273-9763 to schedule a consultation.

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