Benjamin Franklin once wrote, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” No one actually enjoys paying taxes, and few of us really want to think about our own death, but both require advance planning and careful consideration, advises Ohio’s Country Journal in the article “Death and Taxes.”
Think about how quickly the year has gone. Doesn’t it feel like only yesterday you were making New Year’s resolutions? Then it was tax season, which for more people is worse than going to the dentist. While we all know we should see our dentist on a regular basis, we also like to forget that we need to regularly review our estate plan.
Preparing for taxes and death: neither one is associated with warm, fuzzy feelings, but we still need to plan for it. This is to avoid burdening our families and loved ones. It’s hard enough to grapple with loss and grieving, but to be completely unprepared, makes matters worse for those who are left behind. Here are some suggestions to prepare for these certainties of life.
Have a last will and testament prepared. Work with an estate attorney who is licensed to practice in your state. It doesn’t matter if you have a simple life or a complicated one. You need, at a minimum, a will.
Designate a power of attorney. Choose someone you trust to be able to sign important documents and take care of business, if you are unable. It does not have to be a family member. Sometimes a trusted advisor is the best candidate for a POA.
Have a living will prepared and designate a medical power of attorney. Again, choose someone you trust who will make the decisions you want. Talk with them about what you want and put your wishes in the document.
Create a master file and tell someone where important papers can be found. The documents include insurance policies, mortgages, wills, trusts, POA, healthcare POA, information about bank accounts, investment accounts, retirement plans. Don’t leave out contact information for your estate planning attorney, CPA, financial advisor or healthcare providers.
Plan your funeral service. Describe what you would like to happen, in as much detail as you can manage. This will help your family immeasurably, so they won’t be left wondering what you’d want or wouldn’t want. If you plan on being buried, purchase a plot. If you want to be buried with your spouse, purchase two adjoining plots.
Don’t forget digital assets. Make a list of all your digital accounts, usernames and passwords. If possible, name a person to handle your online accounts. Some digital platforms allow you to designate a person to manage your accounts, access your data and close your accounts. Others do not. If you have valuable data online, from business records to family photos, make sure you’ve planned for these assets.
All these items can be updated, as needed. In fact, every three or four years, you should update your estate plan, so that it is current with changing laws and doesn’t miss any opportunities. The same goes for large events in life, including births, deaths, marriage and divorce. Speak with an experienced estate planning attorney to make sure you are ready for the sure thing.
Reference: Ohio’s Country Journal (August 26, 2019) “Death and Taxes”