Wills and Documents

Most people wait!  Sixty-eight percent of Americans believe time is on their side, despite life tossing us curveballs when we least expect them. By initiating the preparatory steps, you can establish directives, express wants and wishes to ultimately ease the burden and the minds of your loved ones. Without legal documents, families experience the heartache of questioning whether they made appropriate decisions.  By assembling the necessary documents and wills, you are leading loved ones into a premediated and thoughtful plan of action.  

Create a Master File 

Who in the family knows where birth and marriage certificates, passports, titles, social security numbers, deeds, bank accounts, and tax documents are kept?   Secrecy will not permit the estate to continue running smoothly if the keys remain in one pocket.  Consider the master file an instruction manual for a trustworthy executor to move forward with your guidance.  For ease of accessibility and updating options, consider using a USB or computer hard drive to manage files. Information from websites to passwords changes frequently; therefore, it may be a relief to organize digital files rather than a large quantity of paper. 

What other documents should it include? 

  • A listing of accounts for all bills, including websites, log-in information, and passwords.  
  • A listing of retirement assets, including 401K, pensions, brokerage accounts, savings bonds, CD’s, money market accounts, and private equity investments. 
  • Additional investments, such as life insurance, health insurance, and social security documents and income. 
  • A detailed description of a safety deposit boxes’ contents, which may include valuable coins, heirloom items, or personal documents.  
  • The location of safes, lockboxes and corresponding codes. 
  • A listing of doctors, medications, and medical release forms. 
  • The Last Will and Testament
  • A letter detailing instructions regarding your vision, starting with the funeral and burial, explaining bills, retirement plans, loans, assets, income sources, trust funds, and life insurance policies.  It’s also the proper time to expand on the will, if necessary 

The Executor of the Estate 

Who do you trust to speak on your behalf about your medical, personal, legal, and financial affairs?  It may be a spouse, daughter or son, relative, or close friend.  In many instances, two people are given the title of “executor of the estate” to ensure at least one person can perform the duty in situations where the second person mentioned is unable to. With an official and signed Power of Attorney document, bearing a notary’s seal, the executor can legally sign contacts, pay bills, buy or sell stocks and bonds, manage real estate and other affairs. 

Do not delay identifying and meeting with your executor.  They will need to understand the details and the government requirements of serving as healthcare and financial agent and sign additional changes to the medical directives document and will. 

What is an Advance Directive? 

Expanding on your Will provides a document detailing your wishes regarding medical treatment.  The advance directive is a written statement including wishes, such as answers regarding resuscitation, tube feeding, mechanical ventilation, organ donation, and palliative care.  While some people wait until a life-threatening illness appears, others know their wishes and prepare early.   

Secretly hiding your documented wishes does not serve to aid your immediate family, especially your health-care surrogate; instead, take time to inform essential people, including your primary care doctor, of your expressed directives. 

Preparing Early is a Kind Act 

Through it can feel morbid, making plans for your death truly is an act of kindness.  Only God knows our destiny; therefore, it’s essential to prepare for an unforeseen illness or accident that may potentially leave you without a voice or written document to help loved ones know your wishes.  Reflect upon your religious beliefs and begin writing.  Start with an open conversation, discussing your ideas and intentions if the end should arrive sooner than expected.  Your loved ones only say goodbye to the body; the information you provide is a final gift and received with appreciation! 


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