Since the personal income tax season ended about June 15, I’ve been trying to catch up on some reading. If you have been to the waiting area in my office you will have noticed I have a fairly large library of reading material, but of course most of it is around financial planning and estate planning and dying. Some people think I’m kind of morbid.
Maybe. But I think it helps me help my clients in ways too many other professionals in their lives don’t seem to be helping. Let’s stop avoiding the issue. We will all die eventually.
So are you Good to Go?
I’ve created a checklist I will give to most of my clients next tax season. Yes, mainly the seniors.
I’m 51 and even I have to acknowledge I have fewer good years ahead of me than I have behind me. And in July after reading several estate planning books, I did start thinking about if I am “good to go”. And the answer is sort of but not completely. I do have the required legal documents in place (Will, Power of Attorney, Health Care Directive), but I’m really not “good to go”
So are you?
If you would like a copy of my checklist, just stop by my office for a copy or send me an email and I will email you a copy. It’s not perfect and I may need to adjust it as I spend time with clients, but it’s better than what I’ve seen so far. It’s basic and on one page.
Here’s a description of what’s on it so you can follow along and decide what you still have outstanding to do.
Of course the legal documents come to mind first and you may have them already too, but do they reflect your current wishes? (Mine don’t, they are from 14 years ago and need to be changed; our beneficiaries need updating; our alternate executors need updating).
So if you think your Will is fine, answer these questions: do you have an executor and an alternate named? And it can be more than one (there are pros and cons to having executors that are joint and have to act together). The bigger question is have you given them copies of your Will and do they know where the original is? And have you given copies to your beneficiaries? (Why not tell them now what your plans are.)
Are you leaving a legacy? Are you including a charity as one of your beneficiaries? Is there an organization or two that you would like to leave some of you money to?
Regarding your Power of Attorney, have you named one legal representative and an alternate? Again you can have joint, but not necessarily recommended or required.
Have you named “a recipient of accounts”? This person will received the accounting of all the transactions your representative has done on your behalf while you have been unable to look after your own finances. It’s a good idea to have your legal rep be accountable to someone else in your family. And have you given them copies of the Power of Attorney and do they know where the original is? Do the rest of your beneficiaries (often your other children) know who has been appointed? Why keep it a secret?
Do you have a “good” health care directive? I emphasize “good” because until about one year ago, I didn/t know what a good one was. A better one is called a Compassionate Care Contract. I wrote an article on it a year ago (see annimarkmann.ca for all my archived articles). If you need a copy of the form or the article or both, call or email me.
The reason the compassionate care contract is better than most health care directives is because it is easy to understand (clear and only two pages) and gives good instructions to your family what kind of end of life care you want. It’s really about “how do I want to die”. And do you want to extend your dying or not? Once you complete it, review it with your doctor and your family, especially the one (and an alternate) that will make medical decisions for you if you cannot. Review it with all your family members (often your children). Give them copies. Let them know where the original is.
Do you see a pattern here? It’s called open communication with your family. Start talking with them now. Share your documents. Help them understand. And if they don�t want to hear it, tell them it’s important to you and to them. It will keep the family peaceful and unified after you are gone. Bring in a mediator like me if your family needs help communicating.
OK, a few more items you should put down on paper to ensure you are good to go.
Do you have your vital statistics ready for your executor? I had to scramble a bit when my mother died, needed to double check with some cousins in Denmark about the names of my mother/s parents including her mother/s maiden name (and correct spelling) and where her parents were born. I was more prepared when my father died (I was a quick learner). I realize this documented information is even more important for those who do not have children or who are estranged from their children. Who will know this information?
I have been named executor or alternate executor for several clients in the past few years and realize I need to get this info from these clients so they are “good to go”.
Have you planned your funeral? Do you have it written down? Have you shared this plan with your family? You need to let them know what you want so they arrange what you want and not what you wouldn/t have wanted. And you ensure they spend what you expect, not what they may emotionally feel obligated to do. Shop around with your funeral plan and find out which funeral home your family should use. I/m not saying you have to prepay, that is an individual decision. The written plan is the most important part.
Have you written your obituary? Who knows you better than you? And this is the final piece you can have major input in! I/m an obituary reader and I enjoy reading the stories of people/s lives. So what do you want in your obituary? I plan to have mine in the first person (Mine will be full of “I” and “me”, not “she”).
I hope this gives you some ideas on how to make sure you are Good to Go.
I am planning some workshops in the fall (September and October) to help people with all of the above and more. Likely over three evenings or three afternoons. And will likely group similar people: couples, couples in second relationships, individuals (single, divorced, widowed).
If you are interested in attending, let us know and we will put you on our list to invite as soon as we have the dates scheduled.
And I will have one or two Death Cafes in the fall and winter before next February. I already have a long list of people who are interested in the next upcoming ones. If you want to be added to the list, let us know!
Anni Markmann Personal Income Tax Professional and Certified Financial Planner; living, working, and volunteering in our community. Contact her at 204.422.6631 or 36 Dawson Road in Ste Anne (near Co-op) or Info@SteAnneTaxService.ca.