Be Prepared: Death Happens when We’re Not Looking

Orange City Iowa Estate Planning

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We often use the euphemism “getting hit by the bus” to begin the discussion and get our clients thinking about what the reality of that situation would look like, if they were suddenly no longer available.

Don’t get hit by a bus unprepared!

There are the hard topics, like sickness and death, that estate planning prepares for. Then there’s the unexpected. Wicked Local Dedham writes about the unexpected in the article “Five Things to consider before getting hit by the bus.”

Without an estate plan in place, families have to cope with the pain of a sudden loss in addition to managing a funeral and estate without any advance planning.  But the solution is relatively simple: have an estate plan and a “just in case” plan ready.  Here are 5 questions your estate plan would answer.

Access to money for expenses. If your family needed to get funds to pay bills and funeral expenses, how would they do that? Do you have a power of attorney in place?  If you don’t have close family nearby who you can count on, who will take care of these things for you?

Life insurance and other assets with beneficiaries. If you have one or more life insurance policies, does anyone but you know about them? Do your beneficiaries know that they are your beneficiaries? If your employer or former employer offers life insurance, disability insurance or any other benefits, make sure that someone else besides you knows about them. If you receive a pension, does your pension get transferred to your spouse, or do the payments stop when you die? Do you know what your Social Security benefits would be to a surviving spouse, or family members?

End-of-life medical decisions. If you don’t have an Advance Directive in place, it’s time to speak with an estate planning attorney and add this to your estate plan. If you don’t have a will, Health Care Power of Attorney or other documents prepared, now would be the time to get these plans in place.
You should use a Health Care Power of Attorney document, to name a health care agent who understands your wishes for end-of-life care if you should suffer a stroke, be critically injured in an accident or experience an illness that leaves you incapacitated. These conversations are not just for you, but for your loved ones. It will give them peace of mind to know that they are following your wishes, if a hard decision, like removing you from life support, needs to be made.

Final arrangements. Does anyone know your wishes for burial or cremation? Do you want a traditional funeral or a memorial service? Who should be notified of your passing? Making this information available for those who will be in charge is a kindness to them. If they need to get names and emails from your computer, make sure they know how to log into your system. You could also print out a list and tell them where you are placing it.

Last will and testament. The first question is, do you have a will? The second is, does your family know where it is located? Tell your family and the person you have selected as the executor about the existence of your will, where it can be found and where other important documents are located. If you haven’t had your will created or haven’t reviewed your will in three or four years, it’s time.

Death does not come without a lot of paperwork. For some people, a bad health diagnosis serves as a wake-up call. For others, the death of a close family member or friend is the trigger. Whatever motivates you, speak with an experienced estate planning attorney to have an estate plan created.

Reference: Wicked Local Dedham (Oct. 10, 2019) “Five Things to consider before getting hit by the bus.”

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