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Before you take that long dirt nap
Old 09-13-2016, 01:46 PM   #1
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Before you take that long dirt nap

The following is a bit off the cuff, but I wanted to collect some basic info in one place regarding planning for disability and death. Much of planning is state-dependent, and many of our forum members have vast experience with their own estate planning and with settling the estates of others. This snapshot is not for you. Rather, it is the nudge for the "yeah, I really gotta get on that" person, whether it is for themselves, or a family member.

So You’re Dead, Now What?

Before death (or sometimes even more important, disability), we have the unparalleled opportunity to take care of decisions and paperwork that can make or break the relationships of those we leave in our wake. Though it is uncomfortable to talk about this stuff, there is no greater gift you can give to your kids, siblings, friends, and the local bill collectors than some time devoted to the euphemistically titled “end of life” planning, which should really be called “about every 10 years, maybe more often, depending on what’s up in your life” planning.

WILLS
So let’s start with the simple stuff: in your 20s, if you don’t have any assets, nothing in particular you want to go to someone special, breeze by my missive. Your time will come. But, if you are married, maybe own a house, a couple of cars, whatever; this is the time for your very first wills (how romantic!). Also included in the catch-all of “wills” is understanding that you and your spouse have your own wills, not something joint, which for some reason is confusing to people.

Maybe you want a lawyer, maybe you can pull the simple “I love you” will together online somewhere that says I give everything to my spouse and if they pre-decease me (the lovely “common disaster” scenario fits in here) then I give it to the first name in the phone book or whoever. Think of your will as the instructions for where your stuff goes, and the executor as the person who is in charge of making that happen. If you choose your spouse as your primary executor, make sure to name a successor executor, in case of that common disaster thing. Pick someone reasonably organized, capable, who lives nearby, and who has agreed to fulfill the role. Until you have kids, wills are pretty easy.

HEALTH CARE POA
Aaaannnndddd, in case that was too easy, you also need to hunt up the advance directive/health care power of attorney stuff relevant to your state of residence (remember this if you up and move, see above about how often to revisit this). This is also one of those awesome conversations, about what you want done in worst case scenarios where you are rendered incapable of making your own health care decisions.

Read through the advance directives, adding notes to clarify stuff as needed, and select your health care power of attorney and an alternate, to be on the safe side. This is also worthwhile for that single 20-something a few paragraphs ago, who breezed through til now, as health disasters can strike whether you have any assets or not. It is far better to choose someone and give them some guidance on your wishes than to leave it up to whoever gets to the hospital first. Remember that you want to choose your Health Care POA to act as you would, so think about this a bit and talk to them about it before you add their name to the form. There’s a good resource here on the whole topic:

https://www.americanbar.org/content/...thcheckdam.pdf

The health care POA and advance directives should be given to the person you’ve selected as POA (and your alternate, if you want to), as well as your primary health care provider. And keep a copy with your will.

YOUNG KIDS
Now, once you have kids, then you need to revise your will to include them, and establish guardianships for them if you and your spouse are dead/disabled. You also need to pick up some life insurance to cover their expenses. Who you choose for the guardianship role will probably change over the years—in the beginning it might be your parents, young-at-heart and able to take on caregiving, but later on, you may think that teenagers might be better suited to living with your younger sibling, who wasn’t very settled at one point, but now is in a good place and would be willing to take on the responsibility. Again, this is why you should revisit these documents at least every 10 years, if not sooner.

Likewise, your retirement accounts should have the right beneficiaries listed, and avoid making minor children the inheritors, this gets complicated and you’ll want to establish some oversight if your kids are going to turn out right. Minor children should not be direct inheritors of any estate assets, period. Assets must go to a trust, which would then dole out money to them in accordance with the terms of the trust and the discretion of the trustee.

STORAGE
Now, a brief sideways tour into storage...where to put these vital papers…this is where everyone has a slightly different situation, and it will change with time. Your choices include: with the attorney who prepared the will (this would be the original, as you can take a copy home), in your home safe (but you’ll need to provide instructions to the executor to access it), wrapped up well in the freezer, or in your safe deposit box. Some states make it somewhat easier to get into the safe deposit box, and others make it darn near impossible. Do what makes sense, both to you AND your executor. Don’t shove it in an obscure paperback book, leave it in a box of old tax records, or better yet forget where you actually “hid” it. Disasters await your unlucky heirs. Tell your executor EXACTLY where it is, and leave it in that spot.

GETTING OLDER
As you get older, kids get grown, life gets more (or maybe less) complicated. As you reach whatever age says “declining mental acuity is just around the corner”, and don’t kid yourself about this, be real, start simplifying your financials. Check those retirement account beneficiaries again, re-read your will, be sure that your executor and health care POA are still the right choices, and start thinking about setting up durable POA (financial) for yourself. Durable POAs can act in your behalf with banks, utilities, brokerages, and any other entities with whom you deal. This power can be broad or restricted, and you should consider carefully who you want handling things if you cannot manage it yourself.

Keep handy someone who you can trust to tell you when you aren’t sparking on all eight cylinders any more. Make a promise to listen to them, and keep that promise. Bad judgment, fear, paranoia, and confusion can make a mockery of your carefully laid plans if you become incapacitated and don’t know it. If not a spouse, then identify a good friend, an attorney, financial professional, pastor, or whoever. Just be sure they know to speak up with their concerns about your well-being and what to do.

You can set up POAs with specific institutions, and in fact, you should probably use their POA forms for this purpose, as it is easier and less headache than getting them to accept a general durable POA. Consider adding POD/TOD (paid on death/transfer on death) designations to brokerage accounts, adding authorized representative or joint holders to utility accounts, insurance policies, and credit cards, and creating a document (perhaps updated once or twice a year) that includes your bank account information, attorney contact info, insurance policy numbers/names, utility providers, and relevant passwords for websites and personal devices. You can keep this with your will.

Speaking of making things less complicated, seriously consider consolidating your financial accounts to one brokerage, especially when you get to RMD territory. Having your IRA assets in one place makes this calculation much easier, and that’s what you want for yourself, or your caregiver, at some point.

THE END
Funerals and other grim tasks: include in your packet of important papers some instructions regarding your final wishes, and if these include a traditional funeral, you should probably price out your desired casket and whatnot and earmark funds for the service. Bereaved loved ones are not the most judicious of consumers, and you can make this task easier by giving explicit instructions and cost projections.

Disposing of your worldly possessions is another grim task borne by caregivers and heirs. Spend some time organizing your mementos and setting apart the truly meaningful from the obvious clutter. Scan and share family photographs, give kids their baby blankets and old report cards, and make legible notes/appraisals about specific items of more than sentimental value. Think hard about the chore of going through everything you own, and how you can make things easier for the person with that job. Beyond the usual stories about grown children fighting over valuable family heirlooms are the untold hours spent sifting through stacks of receipts, photographs of strangers, and tokens kept from trips long in the past. The tedium of this task, likely coupled with grief and exhaustion, is too often overlooked until you’ve had to do it yourself.

I’m not an attorney, and am not giving any specific legal or financial advice with the above notes. Your situation is unique and specific to you, and may be best served by using the services of a qualified professional. YMMV.
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Old 09-13-2016, 02:02 PM   #2
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Thanks for this...a well-appreciated nudge....
I do have to go over our trust again, and finish filling in what goes to whom in our will.
We just finished going through our parents' estates.
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Old 09-13-2016, 02:11 PM   #3
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My Mom was great about this. She downsized from home to an apartment and I helped her. When she was in her 60's she bought grave site, headstone (had it engraved) etc. Then as she got older she bought casket, asked people to sing at her funeral (told them the song she wanted), wrote her own obituary, etc. She outlived her $ (almost 90 when she died) and was living on her SS and small pension. She told us to sell her car to pay for a nice sit down dinner for the people that came and we did. She also got rid of a bunch of her own stuff including the pics that no one wanted. What a great gift she gave us.
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Old 09-13-2016, 02:53 PM   #4
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My Mom was great about this. She downsized from home to an apartment and I helped her. When she was in her 60's she bought grave site, headstone (had it engraved) etc. Then as she got older she bought casket, asked people to sing at her funeral (told them the song she wanted), wrote her own obituary, etc. She outlived her $ (almost 90 when she died) and was living on her SS and small pension. She told us to sell her car to pay for a nice sit down dinner for the people that came and we did. She also got rid of a bunch of her own stuff including the pics that no one wanted. What a great gift she gave us.
My parents were great about this too. They each wrote their own obituary and Dad had everything in a trust so the bank took care of the house, cabin property and stocks. We went through the house and took what we wanted and the bank took care of the rest.

They were both cremated and Mom hung on to Dad's ashes so she could talk to him after he died. She told me to mix their ashes together and I spread them over the site where they had first met. I went back a few years later and spread the ashes of their cocker spaniel after she had died.
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Old 09-13-2016, 02:56 PM   #5
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Perfect ending-they all got to be together)
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Old 09-13-2016, 03:37 PM   #6
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Thank you for taking the time to make this list. Great information and very helpful...
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Old 09-13-2016, 03:56 PM   #7
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Thank you Sarah!


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Old 09-13-2016, 04:39 PM   #8
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Thank you.
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Old 09-13-2016, 05:11 PM   #9
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Sarah - this is great advice.

I need to add my DH to all the utility bill accounts. I've already written him instructions about the online access... but I really should add his name to the accounts. We have POAs for each other.

Someone mentioned in another thread that POAs can be considered "out of date"... (over 5 years old?) Is this true? If so, we'll need to update them since ours are almost 10 years old.

Thanks again for writing this up.
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Before you take that long dirt nap
Old 09-13-2016, 06:28 PM   #10
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Before you take that long dirt nap

POAs don't expire until death, if they are durable. This holds unless they actually specify an expiration date or are revoked by the grantor of the POA.

DH and I have POA paperwork for each other, done as part of our wills, that have not been used. I do have Schwab POA on his retirement accounts for convenience.

Here's a short article with a bit more about POA types, including a mention of springing POA, which is only activated upon incapacity. The problem with these is determining incapacity, IMHO.

http://info.legalzoom.com/power-atto...ire-20375.html
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Old 09-13-2016, 07:50 PM   #11
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very thorough and well written- thanks for taking the time to write all that down
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Old 09-13-2016, 07:52 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Teacher Terry View Post
My Mom was great about this. She downsized from home to an apartment and I helped her. When she was in her 60's she bought grave site, headstone (had it engraved) etc. Then as she got older she bought casket, asked people to sing at her funeral (told them the song she wanted), wrote her own obituary, etc.
It really freaks me out to see headstones already up and engraved with everything but the date of death filled in. I know was a big help to you, but eww.
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Old 09-13-2016, 08:19 PM   #13
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Thanks for the memory bump Sarah.
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Old 09-13-2016, 08:53 PM   #14
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POAs don't expire until death, if they are durable. This holds unless they actually specify an expiration date or are revoked by the grantor of the POA.

DH and I have POA paperwork for each other, done as part of our wills, that have not been used. I do have Schwab POA on his retirement accounts for convenience.

Here's a short article with a bit more about POA types, including a mention of springing POA, which is only activated upon incapacity. The problem with these is determining incapacity, IMHO.

http://info.legalzoom.com/power-atto...ire-20375.html
Good advice. Here in California, all of the financial institutions I've dealt with do not "honor" a POA written by a lawyer. They made us fill out
their POA. Each financial institution had their own POA.

Then as the years went by, the financial institution seem to lose the POA.
Especially after mergers.
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Old 09-14-2016, 03:00 PM   #15
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Someone mentioned in another thread that POAs can be considered "out of date"... (over 5 years old?) Is this true? If so, we'll need to update them since ours are almost 10 years old.

I mentioned this in another thread...

In my case, my mother went into home hospice and I went to her bank with a POA and they refused to accept it. At the time, I didn't have any immediate need to access her accounts and she passed away a week later, so it was a non-issue.

I don't know what would have happened if she stayed in hospice longer and I had to get access to her accounts to pay her bills. Maybe if I pushed it, or engaged a lawyer, the bank would have accepted the POA?

I'm guessing that there would probably be a way to get access to her accounts, but with everything else going on at that time, it would have been a pain.

If I was going through this again, then I'd make sure the POA will be accepted before you need to use it. It's probably not practical to do this everywhere, but it shouldn't be a big deal for the major accounts.

It's also another big plus for consolidating your accounts as you get older, as Sarah mentioned above.
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Old 09-14-2016, 03:18 PM   #16
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It's also another big plus for consolidating your accounts as you get older, as Sarah mentioned above.
Something that I'm really torn about.

On one hand, I greatly appreciate having part of my stash at Fido, another part at VG, and the rest at various banks. It gives me peace of mind to know that if something catastrophic happened at one of them, I would still have access to part of the loot.

On the other hand, I absolutely agree with Sarah that it would be extremely helpful if I got hit by a beer truck and DW had to deal with only one or two institutions.

Dilemma.
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Old 09-14-2016, 03:22 PM   #17
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Here's a short article with a bit more about POA types, including a mention of springing POA, which is only activated upon incapacity. The problem with these is determining incapacity, IMHO.
In my mother's POA it specified that two doctors had to certify that she was incapacitated. That never was needed.
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Old 09-14-2016, 04:08 PM   #18
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It really freaks me out to see headstones already up and engraved with everything but the date of death filled in. I know was a big help to you, but eww.

I have one. It's better than having the date of death cut in, even though that would be a great help in planning withdrawal rates.

Thanks Sarah. Nice nudge to help folks move along, and a reminder to keep it current.
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Old 09-14-2016, 04:23 PM   #19
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My Mom and Aunt did it together and then went and inspected to make sure it was correct. Then the cemetery kept it inside until their DH's died and then it was used. I was 31 and thought it was creepy but now at 62 I have a new perspective. My friend has Alzheimer's and her DH was dying so I had a POA. Everyone took it but Wells FArgo. so I have to go in 5 times to finally straighten it out this time insisting on the vP. They have me fill out their POA without her signature. What sense does that make and then they accepted it??
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Old 09-14-2016, 04:27 PM   #20
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If you are a veteran you can be buried or cremated in a Veterans cemetery for free and a spouse is 400. Talk about a frugal choice. You get the body taken care of and then they give you a spot and engrave your plaque or headstone but for pics on it you have to choose from accepted ones. You do all this in advance so you have a place to go. The plot/headstone etc are the most expensive of the costs. I did ours 2 years ago and showed my kids where the paperwork is. We choose a cremation spot on a wall and they put you both in their with a plaque on the outside. It is a really nice place too. They will even do a service for free if you want.
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