We would all like to think about anything besides a death in our family, or, that we could suddenly pass away. Sadly, it happens every day, and is often unexpected. What can we do to prepare, for our family that is left behind? Consider taking the necessary steps to make this difficult transition easier for all involved.
Prepare Yourself: Organize your Finances
Serious financial issues can arise after the passing of a loved one, as many of us have experienced. Not only are we dealing with overwhelming grief, the family may encounter barriers of monetary nature. Not having your finances clearly detailed and organized can cause immense stress for your executor, or, leave your family without immediate access to funds. Speak with your financial advisor about setting up a Power of Attorney for finances, and for health, should you become incapacitated, or pass away. Appoint an Executor, and, discuss your financial picture in full. Keep your financial documents organized and accessible to those who need them.
Make a clear list of your monthly expenses, and the sources of income. Organize your tax documents and clearly label your files in an accessible location, letting your family know how to find everything needed. Review your finances regularly, and, change your lists as your financial picture is updated annually at tax time.
Prepare Your Family: Discuss Your Wishes
Discussing your wishes for your funeral, or celebration of life is an important discussion, and can mean a great deal to those you might leave behind. Write down what you wish to happen for a final event upon your passing, with your family, and executor. Families may have differing opinions on what your choices might have been, if not previously put in writing. Would you prefer a full funeral, burial, cremation, or special service? Do you have a preferred song, ceremony, or church to help your family find the right way to say goodbye? Do you have funds in place to cover costs and not leave a burden for those who must take on the planning at the most difficult time?
Make a Will, Talk to your Lawyer
Making a Will in Ontario is essential: for the small expense of working with your lawyer, setting up a proper will, not written on a napkin, notarized and on file, can help a family streamline the process, and provide explicit direction for your executor and beneficiaries. Discuss your finances, insurances, investments, assets, and final bequeaths as needed. This is a very small cost, compared to the cost of not leaving a will: families can be left with frozen assets and tax issues if a proper will is not in place. Discuss with family what they may wish to have left to them from your estate, as difficult as that conversation might be.
Set up Insurances for Yourself, and your Family
The earlier you have life insurance in place for yourself, and your family, the better. Before any kind of illness, accident or unexpected incident takes place, the better your premiums may be. Take out enough insurance to cover any left-over expenses for your debts, funeral, and legacy gifts, and consider the type of insurance for long, and short term, that is independent of your employer should you change jobs. Often, a change of employment could mean a cancellation of your life insurance, or benefits program. Discuss with your financial advisor how to be sure your family is left with as few barriers as possible for a secure financial future.
Your Life Online: A New Problem
In the last several years, much of our life has transitioned from paper and pen, to online, in various forms. We may not be leaving a proper map behind us for our loved ones to follow in the online world. Do you have Social Media accounts, online subscriptions, online bill payments, email accounts, smartphones, tablets, laptops, and photos stored on your cloud? How would you like them to close, or have them access your online life? Make a list of passwords, links and logins for your trusted executors or family members and update it often. Set up an external hard drive with your library of images. In five years, the average smartphone user can accumulate over 5.000 images on a cloud or device. Where and how would you like your online data and accounts stored, and how would you like them to be closed?
Consider Your Legacy: What can you leave behind for others?
Writing down your thoughts for those you love in the here and now might make a great deal of difference to them in the future, should you not be here to communicate in person. Sometimes the things we left unsaid after the passing of our loved ones can resonate for years, so writing down our thoughts and leaving them in trusted hands can give us peace of mind. Do you want to extend your gratitude to a person who has helped you greatly, show someone forgiveness or understanding, or thank someone for a special connection? What about acknowledging some assistance, guidance, or compassion you received on your journey…whomever those important people are in your world, writing down your thoughts might mean a great deal to them, and to yourself.
“Sadly enough, the most painful goodbyes are the ones that are left unsaid and never explained.”
― Jonathan Harnisch