Have you ever had to clean up a big mess? Maybe you’ve had to clean up after your kids, your spouse, or after a co-worker. It can be very frustrating. Imagine having to navigate the maze of dealing with the affairs of a recently departed loved-one without a road map or clear instructions.
A close friend of mine lost his mother several years ago. There were several siblings and no will. It is three years later and they are still trying to sort it out. So what does it mean to “get your affairs in order” and not leave a mess for your loved-ones?
Prepare A Will
I’ve read that anywhere from 55% to 70% of Americans will die without of a will. The very first thing you should do for your loved-ones (and I mean ASAP) is to prepare a will. A will allows you to make clear your wishes be carried out and makes it much easier for family members to deal with the details. In short, here are the three main functions that a will allows you to do:
- Give away property that you own in your name the way that you want to.
- Nominate an executor to take care of all of your last affairs as far as paying bills, etc.
- Name a guardian for your minor children or your pets.
Given the relative ease of creating a will with online services like legalzoom.com and uslegalforms.com, creating a will has never been easier. If you don’t have a will, your state will decide what happens to your belongings, your kids, and your financial legacy. You know what good decisions the state makes.
Create A Legacy Drawer
A will is an essential first step. After that, to further assist in providing your loved-ones direction and a road map to navigate settling and managing your estate, create what Dave Ramsey calls a “legacy drawer.” A drawer where you keep the essential documents of your life so your family can easily find needed information after your gone. Here’s his list of 11 essentials:
1. Cover Letter: Nothing fancy, just a single letter to introduce loved ones to the drawer’s contents. It should be simple enough a 12-year-old could read it and know how to navigate and understand the contents.
2. Will or Trust: Copies of your will or trust, including names of the executor and person with power of attorney.
3. Financial Accounts: List anything in your name, including account numbers and amounts. This includes credit-card, bank, retirement accounts.
4. Funeral Plans: All instructions should be noted so family can fulfill your wishes. If married, include both spouses’ wishes.
5. Insurance Policies: List all health, life, auto, homeowners’ policies, etc. Include who is covered, policy numbers and contact information.
6. Vital Documents: Include birth certificates, divorce papers, military and Social Security records, car and boat titles, mortgages and property deeds.
7. Legacy Letters: Since the intent is to guide your family after you’re gone, include personal notes or letters.
8. Monthly Budget: Add a copy of your budget, including bills to pay, so your family is prepared for expenses.
9. Tax Returns: In case of an IRS audit, your state and federal tax returns can be like an insurance policy.
10. Safe Deposit Box: Indicate where it’s located and who has access. As backup, keep a copy in your box of the legacy drawer’s contents.
11. Passwords: Write down all passwords, user names and PINs so family can access computer, cellphone and financial accounts.
QUESTION: If you died tomorrow, would you leave your loved-ones a mess, or a clear understanding on how to manage your affairs? Leave a comment below.