Estate Planning Essentials

by Jill Bright // October - November - December 2018

I’m sure you have said to yourself “I really don’t want to do this. It’s not fun. I’ll do it later.” We should prioritize the things we want to do, could do, and have to do as this year comes to an end and a new one begins. Some may call it a bucket list, New Year’s resolution, or just finally getting organized. Towards the end of each year, we review our finances, retirement, and budgets, plus make contributions and donations that could have a significant impact on our taxes.

We all spend a great deal of time and money planning for life-changing milestones like educations, weddings, children, celebrations, and retirement.

But it seems that estate planning is always last on a person’s financial planning “To-Do” list – after all, thinking about our demise isn’t something we really want to do. So here comes the big question – have you done or reviewed your estate plan? Don’t let 2018 come to a close without getting your estate planning ducks in a row.

Following are a few “got to do but I’m not looking forward to thinking about” topics you should seriously discuss with your grown children or aging parents and appropriate professional administrators. If you take the time now to get your estate organized with the necessary documents, you will avoid future problems, confusion, and stress, giving you and your loved ones peace of mind. Getting your affairs in order is advisable for everyone. You may be healthy, young, and wealthy, or not, but any planning for end-of-life will be beneficial to all when that time comes.

Complete a living will – the legal document allowing medical personnel to communicate your treatment with someone you chose and trust if you are incapable of doing so. Consider a health care power of attorney for medical decisions (medical treatment, nourishment, surgery, rehabilitation facilities, etc.) and a financial power of attorney for financial decisions (opening your mail, paying your bills, transferring your assets, contacting your bank, and so forth).

Execute a last will and testament, the most important estate planning document you can have. You should pick an executor (or the courts will name an administrator) to handle the legal responsibilities of your estate. Their duties include everything from filing your will, distributing your property, paying your bills and estate taxes, filing other documents, and more. If you have young or disabled children, you should name a legal guardian to care for them, their property, and any trusts you have set up for them. Establishing a living trust makes sure your wishes are followed after your death, which also helps distribute your assets to the beneficiaries faster.

An appointment with a funeral director to pre-plan your funeral will also help to ease the trauma following your passing and spare your family the stress of organizing and planning it when under emotional duress and a short time frame. Pre-planning is a gift to your loved ones, guiding them by your written, personal, legal, logistical, and financial choices. Could you, this minute, tell your loved ones the location of your important papers, military discharge certificates, social security number, and insurance papers? Do they know where you were born, your parents’ full names, and your job title for a death certificate?

Review your insurance, beneficiaries, and will at least annually, as families and friends will come and go. Especially take time to update such items as life insurance policies, retirement accounts, pensions, vehicle titles, and even Facebook ownership, so correct names of who will take over your accounts after your death are updated.

Once you have gathered and completed these documents, make copies for your next of kin, attorney, and executor, letting them know where the originals are safely stored. If this information is only in your safety deposit box, it will be of no good if not accessible on a weekend, holiday, or before a funeral if quickly needed.

These are just a few of the important things you need to do for your estate planning. If not done before the end of this year, make a New Year’s resolution to talk with your loved ones, share your wishes, and see those who can make them official and legal, giving this gift of love that will benefit them for their lifetime.

Jill Bright

Bright Funeral Home, located at 405 S. Main St. in Wake Forest. Bright Funeral Home serves the Wake Forest, Rolesville, Youngsville, Franklinton, Falls, Bay Leaf, Louisburg, Raleigh, and surrounding areas.