While your friends resolve to make this year the year they finally lose weight, get fit and kick those unhealthy habits, why not do yourself and your loved ones a favor and complete your estate and funeral planning? It's certainly easier than dropping those last 10 pounds, and making your wishes known now will give you and your family peace of mind.
Why plan ahead?
Estate planning can:
• save your family financial and emotional strain.
• designate a personal guardian for minor children.
• provide for children with special needs.
• reserve funds for college.
• preserve a family business.
• ensure that money, valuables and family heirlooms go to the people you want to have them.
• and much more, depending on the plan you choose.
Funeral planning can:
• ensure your wishes for your funeral or memorial service, burial and other details are
• save your family from having to make difficult decisions in their time of grief.
• prevent family squabbles and speculation about your wishes.
• pay for funeral services in advance.
Planning your estate
Making your wishes known doesn't necessarily have to be complicated or expensive. Most people are familiar with wills. You can type one up yourself or buy a kit, but if you have children or a lot of assets, financial planners usually recommend consulting an attorney. If your estate is simple and you decide to do it yourself, know that most states require that wills be typewritten, name an executor and be signed by two witnesses who are not beneficiaries.
Keep in mind that wills, even those prepared by attorneys, go through court (probate). Probate can be time consuming, stressful for your family and costly to your estate. Consider consulting an estate planner about alternatives to wills. Some options avoid probate and certain taxes.
Wills only go into effect upon your death, so they're no help if you become incapacitated. If that happens, your case will go through living probate and the court will appoint someone to handle your affairs. If you die without a will (intestate), the state will decide who gets your money, your valuables, even your children.
Planning your own funeral
Funeral or memorial service? Burial or cremation? Not sure what you want? Then imagine how your family will feel when they're forced to make those decisions when you die. Save them the added turmoil, potential disagreements and second-guessing. Make those decisions now and let them know what you want. It can be as easy as typing up your wishes and giving it to a trusted family member, friend or attorney, though we invite you to contact our funeral home to understand all of the options available to you and your family.
Are preneed plans safe?
The National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) has issued consumer protection guidelines for preneed contracts, consumer tips on prepaying your funeral and a consumer bill of rights. You may want to review them at www.nfda.org before you sign on the dotted line. Our funeral home abides by the guidelines set forth by the NFDA.
You might also consider involving your family or loved ones in the preparation of your funeral arrangements. After all, the funeral service is really for the living. Consult with family about what type of arrangements they would like to remember you. For example, you may desire a direct cremation, but your spouse may prefer going through a more traditional funeral program. There are many choices to accommodate both desires. Contact us to help you with these choices when pre-planning.
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, www.estateplanforyou.com
National Funeral Directors Association, www.nfda.org, (800) 228-6332 or (262) 789-1880.
The Consumer Federation of America, www.consumerfed.org.