Plan for your last big event – Death

I recently met a man whose father died suddenly in IL, where he grew up. He was driving back to his house in CA from the memorial. The man shared that his father suddenly fell ill. A few days after being admitted to the hospital, they called him and told him to come quickly. He said that when he arrived, his father took four breaths and passed away. I could see the shock and numbness in this man’s being from the experience of his father’s passing. The man said his parents were by no means hoarders, but he was overwhelmed by his sadness and the prospect of having to go through the house and make final arrangements of his father’s affairs.

In an article by Lawrence R Samuel Ph.D. In Psychology Today titled “Death, American Style,” (*see link below), Dr. Samuel states, “For the past century, death and sex have battled to be number one.” unmentionable in America; these two topics were more reflective of our embarrassment and embarrassment when it comes to all bodily matters. But death has been way ahead of sex in a “forbidden quotient”, I think most would agree; the former is now firmly entrenched as this country’s main source of unease, discomfort and apprehension.”

I am confused by the shyness of our cultures on the subject of death. We celebrate and plan the birth. When we plan to have a baby, we find the best doctor we can, read pregnancy books, plan for the baby’s arrival, and set up the nursery. Wouldn’t it make sense to similarly plan death?

Both will happen organically, but certainly with a little planning and education, both can be much easier on you and your family than without any planning or attention.

Here are some basics to consider.

1. Obtain a will or trust

2. Establish a power of attorney or power of attorney (see my previous article on this topic)

3. Create a living will, health directive or “five wishes”

4. Consider planning ahead for your funeral, memorial, or celebration of life

5. Convey your plan to your family or designated trustee

Even a person of modest means needs a trust or a will. A trust or will conveys his wishes and legally states how his assets will be distributed upon his death. Depending on the laws in your state, a trust can save your family anywhere from 3-10% in probate court and attorney costs, not to mention the time it takes to go through the process, which can be months and even years.

Will: A written statement that names someone to manage your estate and how to distribute your property at death. You must sign, date, and have your will witnessed.

holographic will: Testament made entirely of his handwriting.

Trust: It is a legal vehicle where property is held by one party for the benefit of another. Property of any kind can be held in a trust. Trusts can provide benefits in estate planning, asset protection, and taxes. It is important to research the probate and estate planning laws in your state and find out if a trust or will is appropriate for your situation.

Irrevocable Trust: After the property is placed in an irrevocable trust, you cannot repossess the property. For all intents and purposes, that property now belongs to the trust.

Revocable Trust: Your property is placed in the trust. You can undo the transfer by removing the property and terminating the trust.

Legal power: Gives a designated person the power to act on your behalf in private, business, and legal matters. You can describe how much power your designee has and under what circumstances you have the right to act on their behalf. (See article on powers)

Health Care Directive, Living Will, or Five Wishess:

An incredible amount of money is spent on end-of-life care in the United States. Not enough of these resources are designated in an end-of-life plan.

A health care directive or living will is a legal document in which a person specifies what steps should be taken for their health if they are no longer able to make decisions for themselves due to illness or disability.

An alternative to a health care directive or living will is the five wishes.

five wishes inform your family and doctors:

  • Who you want to make health care decisions for you when you can’t.

  • The type of medical treatment you want or do not want.

  • How comfortable do you want to be?

  • How do you want people to treat you?

  • What you want your loved ones to know.

“five wishes it is changing the way America talks about and plans for end-of-life care. More than 23 million copies of five wishes are in circulation throughout the country, distributed by more than 40,000 organizations. five wishes meets legal requirements in 42 states and is useful in all 50. Complete online and print for $5.

Most people want to keep family assets and avoid large amounts of money going to the courts and probate lawyers. In addition, they want to keep peace in the family. Create an estate plan and communicate that plan to whoever has agreed to handle your affairs.

Be sure to consider getting a legal consultation.

*Article by Lawrence R Samuel Ph.D. in Psychology Today titled “Death, American Style” Link to article

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