End of Life Planning

End of Life Planning

I recently met with a client who wanted to discuss how to prepare for the end of their lives. The estate planning documents may be done, but is there anything else to really feel comfortable that you’ve prepared all you could when you pass away? While this may make you feel good, it is also a blessing for the family you leave behind, making this time of grief a little easier.

After my mom passed, I had been helping my dad get his estate planning documents and other financial activities in order. In fact, when on the phone with his insurance or investment companies, he loved to refer to me as his financial advisor before even mentioning that I was also his daughter. Over the years my dad felt comfortable that everything was in in good hands for when he passed.

Below are some of the items or activities my dad and I did.

  • Add data to an Excel spreadsheet.
    • Use a Life Organizer to collect your important data as shown in this Money Tip. I made sure it included a list of my dad’s former addresses, email addresses and phone numbers, personal information like date of birth and Social Security number and military data. After he passed, it was great to be able to not only have everything in one place but where I could copy and paste data instead of constantly retyping.
  • Create an address book with the people you want to attend your funeral, including phone numbers.
    • I had a few weeks before my dad’s military funeral was scheduled so I was able to mail letters, however, most of the time the funeral will be coming up pretty quickly and letters are not an option. My dad’s friends greatly appreciated being notified.
  • Write your own obituary
    • What is it you want your family and friends to know about you and what you value most? Not only is this task out of the way for those you leave behind but it’s also a good recap of your life so far!
  • Make a list of your values or create a letter of intent.
    • This lets your family know what’s important to you or if you have instructions on what you wish your heirs to do with the funds you’ve left them.
  • Have a family meeting
    • This is where you can discuss what the documents are, what your family’s responsibilities are, and get on the same page with your wishes if you become incapacitated or pass away. Not everyone is ready to face this topic head-on—be prepared for jokes brushing it off, procrastination or denial.
  • Do a test run
    • The worst time to realize your hard work wasn’t actually complete is after you’ve passed and there’s nothing that can be done. So, practice! Have your executor do a test run trying to locate your documents and check they have any needed contact information while you’re still around to fill in the gaps.

My client’s father had his documents in “the red notebook” which I thought was pretty genius. Not only did this notebook contain his letter of intent—instructions for some funds earmarked for the grandchildren towards purchasing a car, but the name “red notebook” will now always refer to a source of all the important information a family needs when someone passes away. Instilled in the next generation, it becomes a legacy passed along to the rest of the family who will also make sure they are as prepared as they can be.

For another article on getting ready for your end of life, see this article on Digital Legacy Planning to organize your online assets.

Cynthia Flannigan
Cynthia Flannigan

Cynthia made the shift to financial planning to guide clients through making good financial decisions through both grim and exciting changes in life. More than anything, she thrives on helping people. She obtained her CFP designation in 2008 and completed a masters in financial planning and taxation at Golden Gate University.

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