The last thing you want your loved ones to have to deal with when you have passed away is a tangled mess of financial and inheritance issues. The unpleasant reality is simple: we all die. But with advance planning, we can help our loved ones so that they are not left to pick up the pieces after us.
It’s true that we’d far rather spend time planning a vacation than doing estate planning. Learning about and buying life insurance is another equally unpopular pastime. According to a study of more than 2,000 married adults conducted by NerdWallet, approximately one in three couples have never purchased life insurance. Even more dramatic, a survey of adults who have life insurance report that if their spouses were to die, they would not be able to manage financially.
The national newspaper USA Today recently published a helpful article, “5 ways couples can tackle estate planning now,” that urges readers to take some basic steps now to provide security for their family members —whatever the future may bring. Here are five things you can do to prepare.
1. Determine how much life insurance is needed for you and your family. Many folks simply go with whatever life insurance their employer provides, but that's usually not enough coverage for families. Plus, you may lose the policy if you switch jobs.
2. Understand your spouse's life insurance policy. Even if your better half has been doing the management, you should know the basics about his or her life insurance coverage. The survey found that married adults with children were less likely than those without children to do this: 58% of those with children knew these details, compared to 67% of married adults without children. Among married adults with or without children, women are less likely than men to know the terms of their spouse's policy. Fifty-seven percent of women felt confident about the details, compared to 69% of men. The article says that you should know:
- The name of the insurance company holding the policy
- Why it was purchased
- The amount of coverage
- The costs
- When it expires, if it's a term life insurance policy
- The deadline for converting term coverage to permanent life insurance (if allowed).
3. Have a will prepared. Make sure you have a will in which you explain who gets your belongings and assets after you die. You also should name an executor to manage your estate and a guardian for your children. A will is a must, especially for parents, and you should consult with an estate planning attorney. He or she can help you with other critical estate-planning tasks, like setting up trusts and completing financial and health care powers of attorney documents.
4. Make sure you put financial records in a secure place where they can be found. TheNerdWallet survey says that 30% of married adults with children and 23% of those without kids don't know how to get their family's financial records. The article suggests creating a one-page, quick-start guide that provides information about bank accounts, life insurance companies and policy numbers, and locations of important documents.
5. Talk to your spouse about final wishes. Married adults need to know each other’s final wishes, such as burial and services.
Don’t wait until after the funeral to look at estate documents. Talking about the end of life may not be enjoyable, but it’s a top personal priority.
Reference: USA Today (November 14, 2015) “5 ways couples can tackle estate planning now”