What happens after you die?
This question is, of course, one of the most intriguing questions that humans have ever pondered. Regardless, you cannot guarantee what is going to happen to your spirit once it’s left your body. (See Patrick Swayze’s character in Ghost.) But you do have control over what happens to your spouse, your children, and your assets. That is where estate planning comes into play.
Before you begin estate planning, you need to figure out how you want your family taken care of if you are incpacitated or if you should die.
Here are five estate planning questions that might make you uneasy, but are essential to planning your estate in life and after death.
What Happens to Your Children if you Die?
As a parent, it is difficult to think about a time when your children might not have you around. However, planning for your children’s care after you are gone is perhaps the most responsible thing you can do for them.
You might want to wait until your children are older to do this, but it’s a much better idea to do it now. Why? Because if you do not plan for a guardian, a court will appoint one for you!
For most couples, children remain with the surviving parent should one parent die. But your estate plan needs to have a contingency for the possibility that both parents could die at the same time.
Choose someone you know and trust. Make it someone who is okay with accepting responsibility as a guardian. Discuss with them what being a guardian means and make sure they are on board.
Who Will Make the Hard Healthcare Decisions?
It is best practice to have a health care directive as part of your estate plan. This directive lays out how you are cared for if you are incapacitated.
You should appoint someone to be responsible for making decisions regarding your healthcare. That person should know your feelings before you elect them. Also, make sure they are okay making the hard choices – which could include taking you off life support or even deciding when to cease treatment.
What About your Money?
Your trustee is the person who takes care of your finances after you die. They have access to all your assets, including cash, land, and retirement accounts.
They will have the power to hire attorneys and advisors. The trustee is also responsible for distributing your assets among your heirs.
Your trustee should make good, financial decisions. They can be the same person you choose as guardian of your children, but it is not necessary.
What About Your Digital Accounts?
In the past, your digital life was not an essential part of estate planning; however, in the last 20 years or so, it has become an imortant discussion, with so many accounts accessible online.
Create a safe place to store passwords for all your major accounts. There are cloud storage sites like DropBox where you can keep financial password information. Then your trustee needs only to have the password to that site.
Have You Thought About All Possible Beneficiaries?
When you list out the beneficiaries of your trust accounts, make sure you do not forget anyone. Families are complicated. Make your attorney aware of everyone who might have a claim to your estate.
This planning includes children from other marriages or estranged brothers and sisters. It might even be someone you lived with for an extended amout of time, forming a legal civil union.
If you have this disclosed to your attorney, it makes life much more comfortable for your estate trustee. They will know how to handle it if any of these people come forward.
Estate Planning Questions Answered
Planning for the lives of others after you die is not an easy task. But answering estate planning questions is a necessary part of life.
Make sure you have chosen a competent guardian for your kids. Always include a health care directive so that your family knows your wishes if you are incapacitated. Select a person who makes sound financial decisions as your trustee.
Create a space where your digital passwords are safe. Moreover, make sure your attorney knows about all possible beneficiaries.
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