“Thinking about death clarifies life.”
-Candy Chang, Before I Die
If you died tomorrow would your loved ones know what your wishes are for burial, or how to settle your estate? What of all your online accounts? And would they know the sometimes overlooked, but important personal wisdom, experiences, or values for which you want to be remembered?
No one wants to think about such things, but people who do the hard work of planning and organizing their estates and last wishes, give their loved ones a final gift worth far more than material comfort.
Declaring Your Wishes: Four Questions to Consider
1. What will happen to your property?
Who do you want to aid financially after you pass and how? What sort of planning can you do to lessen any potential tax burden or financial hassles for your beneficiaries?
Consider completing these documents or having them prepared by your trusted counsel. Consider updating them regularly and when you experience a major life event such as the birth of a child, death of a spouse, or receipt of inheritance1:
- Beneficiary Designation Forms: Financial accounts and insurance policies generally provide forms through which you can designate your intended beneficiary of any funds that may become due upon your death. Correctly complete and submit such forms so any funds may be paid out in the particular way you desire. Consider also keeping a copy for your records.
- Trusts: A trust is an arrangement designed to allow a third party, or trustee, to hold assets on behalf of a beneficiary or beneficiaries. In working with your attorney, you can arrange a trust in many ways and can specify how and when any assets pass to the beneficiaries.
- Wills: These legal documents can set forth your wishes regarding the distribution of your property and the care of any minor children.
Consider who is willing and able to perform these roles.
- Who will be the executor of your will?
- Who will be the guardian of any dependents or minor children?
- Who will be the trustee of your estate plan?
2. What wisdom, experience, or feelings do you want to pass on?
Do you have values to impart, or want to share forgiveness for disagreements? Or you may simply want to tell your family how much you love them. To relay these feelings, some people write a Legacy Letter. This document, which may be shared with your family at any time, is a personal way of passing on your wisdom, experiences, and feelings to the people you love.
3. What will happen to your remains?
Consider telling people what your wishes are for your remains, and how you’d like to be remembered. For example, do you want to be buried or cremated? Where? How do you feel about donating your organs? Would you like a memorial service or funeral, if so what kind? Are there specific religious considerations you’d like to honor?
4. Will your loved ones have access to key information they need?
In order to carry out your wishes on any of the above topics, it’s important to get your loved ones access to all the documents that may be the “keys” to processing your affairs after you die. Decide how to store these essential bits of information and get them to your loved ones as needed.
FidSafe®Tip: By storing copies of such “key” information in FidSafe® you have a convenient way to share your files or notes with people while you’re alive or to a designee after you die. Sign up for FidSafe’s new service, Sharing After Death, to designate a trusted contact to receive all your notes and files after you pass. To enroll, go to Account Settings in FidSafe to select your designee.
You can also use the FidSafe Fundamentals Kit to help you log “key” information that will be useful to link to in your legacy file both in FidSafe and in a physical location, such as:
- Important documents
- Key people
- Key locations where important items are kept
- Key online accounts
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1 FidSafe is not a fiduciary and does not provide legal or tax advice. Please work with your trusted advisor.