Great job! You have your estate planning documents done! Now, you need to talk to the executor of your will and your family about your wishes. It is important to note that the “talk” can happen before, during or after your estate planning documents have been prepared – the timing is up to you. Here are a few items to cover with them.
Do you have a sensible filing system so that important documents, like life insurance policies, can be found? Discuss with your executor and your family where you keep important documents. If in a safety deposit box, ensure that there is someone else authorized to access the box so that your executor can start the process of collecting estate assets as soon as practicable after your death. Even if the beneficiary of the policy is not your estate, getting the beneficiary the information necessary to make a claim for the policy proceeds as soon as possible diminishes the possibility that the benefit will be forgotten.
In addition, the sooner the executor marshalls the assets of the estate, the sooner the estate can be distributed, a final report is filed with the court, and the sooner the estate is then closed. Efficiency in administration will reduce the attorneys’ fees that must be paid, which in turn benefits your beneficiaries.
Disposition of Your Body
Discuss with your wife and family your wishes regarding your body. Do you wish to be buried or cremated? If buried, have you already selected and purchased a plot? If cremated, do you wish to be interned somewhere, placed in an urn or your ashes scattered at a favorite park? It provides your family with an opportunity to discuss with you how they wish to mourn for you or celebrate your life. The discussion, while difficult, may ease the pain your loved ones feel at your passing.
Guardian of the Person and Estate
Discuss with your family who you want to be your guardian and why you have chosen that person. Your family may be disappointed you chose someone other than a child or nephew, but your reasoning may diffuse a combative situation later. Moreover, your family may raise issues which you may not have thought of previously, and thus, you may decide to change the primary or alternate guardian. You may even decide to have co-guardians so that the duties are lightened a little.
Financial Provisions for a Surviving Spouse
Are there special financial provisions you have made for your spouse? If so, you should discuss the financial provisions with your spouse, executor, and other advisors you feel can help with your spouse’s transition after you pass. Many times, the spouse will be ready to assume many of the finance-related tasks for which you were responsible during your marriage. But there are times when a spouse may feel overwhelmed by the prospect, and therefore, refuses to take responsibility for financial affairs. Even if this is so, the spouse should at least have a working knowledge of your financial affairs BEFORE you pass so that she will have some idea about whether she is being victimized financially.