We send this email to about 1,200 people every month. I am confident that virtually every recipient, regardless of age, believes he or she will live for years or decades to come.
With apologies for sounding alarmist, the Centers for Disease Control would estimate that five of our 1,200 recipients will pass away in the next year, and five the year after, and so on.
Are you financially prepared? I urge you to take three steps.
Create a will and basic estate planning documents. You need a will with instructions of who gets what, how to pay your debts and who will have guardianship of your minor children. Regardless of your age, you need a health care power of attorney, naming an agent to make health care decisions for you if you cannot, and a durable power of attorney, naming an agent to take financial actions for you if you cannot. If you have significant assets outside retirement plans, you should probably create a living trust. The easiest way to do all this is with an estate planning attorney. If you are young with no dependents or family, you could get basic forms online.
Create a list to guide whoever will settle your affairs. The list should include your assets and liabilities, credit card and financial account information (including logins), social media passwords and key contacts like your lawyer, CPA and financial adviser. There are too many stories of people whose life insurance policies were not cashed in for years, because no one knew the policy existed ... or cable TV bills that stayed on auto-pay for months after the subscriber passed away ... or credit card accounts that remained active long after death.
Have an annual discussion with your executor or whoever will handle your affairs, to make sure they are up-to-date on your finances and wishes. We encourage our clients to use a cloud-based electronic portal that aggregates all their financial information and keeps secure copies of their key documents. Getting everything in one place is a big step forward.
Talking about death is about as much fun as being a 7th grade biology teacher during "facts of life" week. But you owe it to your family. If you don't plan for the inevitable, their suffering won't just be emotional. The financial clean-up with be frustrating and potentially costly.