Thursday, July 18, 2019

How to get your affairs in order to make life easier for your next of kin

Cheerful post today!! Ha ha. 

Can I take a minute to stop and suggest that you talk to your parents about getting their affairs in order, so to speak? It’s not a pleasant conversation, but it’s a lot easier if there’s no terrible diagnosis. You’ll just feel like someone who is doing their homework before it’s due, and, let me tell you, that is a good feeling.

I like to have my life organized (I still also like to jet off to Paris at the last-minute though, which is a lot easier to do if your life is organized), so my parents and I visited with an elder law attorney back in the summer of 2016 to set up new wills and create a trust so the family house would not be lost. Mom was convinced she was going to die before my dad (she was right), and that he would live another 20 years, “marry some floozy who would get the house” (she was wrong). 

We did not end up setting up a trust for my dad because two stage 4 cancer diagnoses soon followed our initial meeting. Still, that meeting forced my parents to write down everything I needed to know about all in one spot — the mortgage, the auto titles, the insurance information, social security, etc. We were able to ensure that there were beneficiaries listed on bank accounts and Power of Attorney was solidly in place when my parents were unable to leave the house. 

Anyway, might I recommend the kind folks at Kentucky ElderLaw if you have elderlaw needs (if you’re in Kentucky, that is). Also in Louisville is the fabulous Nicole Willet-Jones who specializes in estate planning. 

In the mean time, here’s a quick list of things you could do to make end-of-life a lot easier on your next-of-kin:

  • Make a will (duh) ... with an attorney 
  • Appoint/create official Power of Attorney to your partner or adult child you trust, and file these forms with the banks you use, insurance agents, even utility companies.
  • Power of Attorney expires with death, so I found it useful for my dad to list me as beneficiary on his bank accounts (some refer to this as “payable on death” or “transfer on death”). He didn’t have a lot of money leftover, but if he had this would have been a really useful thing to avoid probate (my situation was also WAY easier because I’m an only child)
  • Ask about various options to protect any property you own (the laws get tricky here and vary state to state) 
  • Make a list of all your bank accounts, stocks, or any other property, so people know how to pay for your funeral or your water bill
  • Have a conversation about health wishes and funerals (sounds tragic, but my parents and I had a delightful lunch at Chuy’s where we planned their funerals while munching on chips and dip). Neither of my parents wanted a service, and, while I would have guessed that they wouldn’t have wanted one, it was nice to hear it from their own mouths.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing this Brigid. You have had to learn all this information in a very short time. Continued strength and consolation in this time of transition. I do workshops on end-of-life planning and have lots of checklist if anybody would like them. Just knowing that you have to have a will advance directives is a really good start.