The importance of a good paper trail
Living life and facing death can be liberating (and it doesn’t have to be difficult).
Ensuring that your family can locate the information they need to carry on your legacy through their own lives is a crucial component of estate planning. Clarity, direction and reassurance are invaluable assets to those facing change, especially while juggling time-sensitive matters with grief.
Your final documents can include recipes, wishes, your eulogy and obituary, but for practical purposes should prioritize financial and organizational road maps for those who are tasked with settling your affairs.
What to include
Deciding which documents to focus on when preparing your loved ones for their continued journey through life after you’ve passed should depend on your priorities for them. Maintaining a focus on the financial and logistical components of your estate with the largest impact can significantly ease stress and confusion for those handling your estate. Consider these documents and their impact:
- Financial powers of attorney give someone permission to make decisions on your behalf – anything from communicating with your cable company to dealing with banking, real estate, business and legal matters.
- POLST forms outline physician orders for life-sustaining treatment for those with serious conditions, indicating things like whether you’d like CPR, mechanical ventilation, feeding tubes, ICU treatment or DNR. Because the POLST is signed by a doctor, it tends to carry more weight than an advance directive.
- A medical power of attorney outlines medical treatments you want and those you don’t and authorizes a proxy to make decisions for you.
- Beneficiary forms for insurance policies, retirement accounts and some other assets prevail over the will. Whoever is named will receive those assets unless the form has been updated.
- A last will and testament outlines how you want specific assets to go to specific people but must go through an often-public probate court.
Don’t stop there
The greatest gift you can provide upon your passing is the groundwork for the continuity of the lives of those around you. Make sure that all of your wishes are documented clearly and made readily available.
Here are actions you can take now to ensure that important information is both available to your loved ones and enforceable in alignment with your wishes:
- Creating a trust, which transfers assets and personal property in an orderly and more private manner than a will while stipulating special provisions
- Titling, which overrides anything in your will and can help to streamline the probate process
- Create a password bank with the help of your financial advisor to make often overlooked digital assets such as login information for your online accounts accessible to those you wish to receive them