If you saw the movie with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, you may have been inspired to create your own Bucket List. Your list might include hiking the Grand Canyon, skydiving, or traveling to China. But there are some other things you should do before you die, such as writing a will, that you either may not have considered or you’ve just been putting off.
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1. Prepare your vital documents. Your Will, Durable Power of Attorney for Finances and Healthcare and your Advanced Healthcare Directive are the foundation pieces of a basic estate plan and everyone should have them in place. Your grieving family shouldn’t have to struggle with these aspects of your life after you’re gone.
2. Share the location of your documents. Don’t keep the only copies of your vital documents in a safe deposit box because upon your death, that box could be sealed by your bank, rendering the information inaccessible. Give sealed copies of your will to your executor(s) and your attorney and keep the original document in a fire safe in your home. As a backup, put a digital copy on a flash drive and one on your computer’s hard drive, too.
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3. Write down your debts and debtors. Your spouse or family may not know you lent your sister $3,000 10 years ago, or that you borrowed $3,000 from your boss last year. Keep a running list of debts along with the contact information of who you owe, or who owes you money. You don’t want your family to be surprised by someone approaching the estate for money owed once it’s all said and done.
4. List insurance information. Your family will need to know all the insurance companies who hold policies for you, whether it’s life, health, disability or property insurance. Create a comprehensive list that includes the company names, policy numbers and your agent’s contact information. Give a copy of this list to those who have a copy of your will.
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5. Consider final arrangements. Do you want to be buried? Cremated? Do you want to donate your healthy organs? It’s tough to think about these things in advance, but unless you do, someone else will be making that decision for you. Have a conversation about it with your loved ones and include your wishes in your will so there is no uncertainty.
When my mother passed unexpectedly in 2004, our family’s grieving was much made lighter because she had put her affairs in order in advance and there was no guessing on our part. I also believe that her advance preparations prevented unnecessary friction between family members. These important tasks may be uncomfortable to think about, but taking small steps to prepare for the inevitable really is the ultimate act of love.
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- Morgan Freeman
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