Discussing your final wishes with your family is not always an easy task, but it’s an essential step in estate planning. Having your wishes on the table and making sure your family is aware of them can help to make the grieving process—and everything else that takes place after the death of a loved one—a bit easier. Plus, you will have the peace of mind knowing that your wishes will be met.
Write a will and select beneficiaries
No matter what your age, writing a will is good common sense. Make sure your family is aware of your will and its contents. Your will should include the naming of an executor to oversee that your wishes are indeed carried out in the manner you specify.
Your will should also include how your assets should be divided and whether or not there are specific items or funds that should go to a specific person. Discussing your will with your family during estate planning will leave no doubt as to what your wishes are after you are gone.
Decide who will take care of any dependents
If you have dependents, you will need to decide who you want to take care of them after you are gone. You will also want to make sure you have spoken with those you have chosen to make sure that they are up for the task.
Additionally, you will want to have a discussion with your chosen guardian about specific concerns, dependent needs, medical issues, and anything else that might be helpful in taking on the responsibility of caring for your dependents after your death.
Plan your funeral
With the average cost of funeral expenses increasing, the need to plan ahead has also increased. Planning a funeral can be a daunting task, especially if you have no idea what the deceased would have wanted in a funeral service. Talking about it and even making arrangements ahead of time can be very helpful to loved ones left behind after you have passed.
Decisions on whether or not to have calling hours, whether you would want an open or closed casket, whether or not you want to be cremated, where you will be buried, what your headstone will look like, and so much more will need to be decided. Many funeral homes and gravesites allow you to make all of your arrangements and even pay for them upfront, alleviating the burden on family members.
Medical decisions to consider when estate planning
Of course there are other details you may also wish to discuss with family members. Do you want your organs donated? Do you want to die in a hospital or nursing facility, or, if at all possible, do you want to die at home? Are there any family heirlooms your family members should be aware of? Do you have a diary or other family history you want read or handed down to someone after your death? Do you have a safety deposit box that family members should be aware of? Do you have life insurance policies?
You may also want to consider having a living will, signing a DNR, and/or appointing a power of attorney or healthcare proxy to make healthcare decisions for you if you are unable to. The list goes on—so remember that it is important to openly discuss with your family members anything that is on your mind relating to this sensitive topic.
Jeff Rose is an Illinois Certified Financial Planner. He blogs at Good Financial Cents and Soldier of Finance. He loves Crossfit workouts, writes about Roth IRA rules and craves In-N-Out burger. You can follow his updates on Twitter.