It’s one of those topics we hate to talk about. Much like discussing money, death is also a taboo topic.
Yet it is an inescapable fact of life – that everyone dies. And that we need to prepare for it for the sake of our families. Here is a list of things to do to prepare for your own eventual death – and it’s a list that should be reviewed often.
- Write a list of physical items. Go through the things you own and list everything worth more than $100. Examples include electronics, jewellery, cars and artwork. Why? Because if you leave somebody a specific item in your will, and that item no longer exists when you die, that person may receive nothing. The legal term is the doctrine of ademption.
- Write a list of non-physical items. Look through your paperwork for these. Examples include bank accounts, superannuation accounts, insurance policies and legal documents.
- Write a list of debts. This will include mortgages, credit cards, car loans and personal loans.
- Check if you have binding nomination on your superannuation. Super is not covered by your will and who receives it may be at the discretion of the trustees. If you have a binding nomination, you can nominate who receives your super.
- Keep a list of passwords for your electronic assets. A recent phenomenon, digital assets might include an extensive collection of music and online accounts. The administrator of your account will even have to close down your social media accounts.
- Choose a responsible and capable executor for your estate. The administration of an estate is a complex job and one in which the executor can be held personally responsible for any mistakes. A person who has previously proved to be dishonest, refuses to take advice or is unable to be impartial is a poor choice.
- Write a will. It seems obvious, but half of all Australians still don’t have a will. If you die without a will, the court can decide who gets your assets.
- Make sure you have other documents in place. A power of attorney and an advanced health directive are important documents that should be prepared in conjunction with a will. These documents help others make your wishes known if you are incapacitated in any way. You may also want to consider setting up trusts for a wide range of reasons.
- Keep everything up to date. You should be aware that major life events, like marriage, divorce, the birth of a child or grandchild or a death in the family can all affect your estate planning. That’s why we recommend updating your estate planning every five years or each time there is a major life event.
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What about somebody else’s estate planning?
As our parents age, it may be common for them to try to protect their adult children from having to talk about end-of-life issues or financial issues. Or you trust they’ve drawn up a will, created a living will to guide their medical care if they become unable to communicate, and maybe even taken the time to make funeral plans. Or you have actively said to them that you don’t want to discuss their deaths.
However it may be a cause of great relief for ageing parents to fully communicate their wishes. So if your parent is casually mentioning these topics, ask if they want to set a time to go over their will, wishes regarding medical care, and other estate planning matters.
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The most important thing is to have this discussion as soon as possible. Illness and accidents can strike suddenly and unexpectedly, and learning your parent’s wishes while they are alive and feeling well will be easier than relying on paperwork or risking the possibility that they become too ill to convey their wishes.
Remember that your parent’s wishes might be very different than yours. You might be surprised to learn certain details and might even disagree. But if your parent is well enough mentally and physically to make sound decisions, you will need to accept and respect their plans. It is certainly fair to ask questions about their decision-making, but try to avoid any judgments or arguments. Remember that someday you will want your loved ones to know and follow your end-of-life issues, even if they don’t agree with them.
While death is never a pleasant topic to talk about, being prepared and honest about your finances and wishes will mean that your loved ones aren’t left with a mess to deal with once you’re gone.
We offer a free, 10-minute phone consultation so contact us today!