I have had the great fortune of being born to some of the most loving, devoted parents that walked the earth. They treated the raising and education of my sister and me as full time jobs. Helping them out was Aunt E, who was like a second mom. Although she had her own home, she was always with us.
These three people taught us so much of life. I will have to share some of these pearls of wisdom in another blog, but for now I want to focus on the fact that all three have passed away.
Our dad was the first to go. He was an old fashioned horse trader by nature. What he owned one day might now be what he owned the next. So he spent his last few weeks on his death bed dictating his business dealings. Our mom had to get a will on her death bed, after a sudden heart attack.
My friends, we learned the hard way, and I want to share what little I know with you.
First, write your wishes down and tell your family where they can find these details. My father gave us the greatest blessing before he died…he planned his funeral. That took so much pressure, emotion and stress off of us, his family. My personal morticians, Jeff and Price, provided me with a file folder that asks all the pertinent questions about what I want for my funeral and obituary. I already have my cemetery plot and will get a pre-need sometime soon. And yes, I am only 48, but I totally understand what a loving gift this is for my survivors.
Second, have a will and keep it updated. Read it and make sure it is clearly written. And tell your family to probate it! In my job, I see so many problems due to wills not being kept current, wills not being clear, and wills not probated. This is so important, yet people don’t do it. Or if they do, they do it themselves on the Internet. Sometimes you get what you pay for.
Three, keep a file of important papers. Suzi Orman promotes this with a binder you can purchase, and I adopted my own version. I have an important document notebook, which has a copy of all my docs and where the original can be found. Be sure and think through this. My sister has the original of my medical power of attorney, do not resuscitate, etc. Because in the middle of the night, if the hospital needs it, you can’t get it out of a bank lock box.
In the important papers file (I use a 3-ring binder), include EVERYTHING. Insurance, title to your autos, savings accounts, life insurance, etc. EVERYTHING a person needs to know to get your estate in order. Who is your CPA, etc? Don’t assume your children know these things.
Please note, your family will need originals of all your important papers. Please sign them in BLUE ink. I know this is not what we were taught back in the day (all professional documents are to be signed in black ink), but that was before scanned signatures and computers. It should be easy to differentiate from a copy and an original. Put a sticky note on it that states ORIGINAL.
I know different folks have different feelings about all of this. I totally get that we don’t want to think about our own death, but really this is the greatest gift you can give your family.