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You Can’t Take It With You

You know that phrase, “You can’t take it with you”? No matter how much money you have or don’t have, there comes a time when it won’t make any difference. When you die. Of course, then whatever financial rewards you’ve accrued in your lifetime will matter to your loved ones. Hopefully, you will have made arrangements in your will to have your financial estate duly managed and passed to your loved ones. You do have a will, right?

That might sound like a dumb question but you’d be surprised at the number of intelligent people who didn’t get around to making a will before they died: Abraham Lincoln, Pablo Picasso, Howard Hughes, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, Prince, and Aretha Franklin to name a few. The consequences of their oversight were that their estates were turned over to the courts resulting in long legal arguments and the government getting more of the share than was probably ever intended by the deceased. Sadly, when there’s no will, the loved ones may miss out adding to their burden of grief.

The strange thing is that nearly 80% of people asked say making a will and other end-of-life plans is a great idea yet only about 20% actually get around to doing it. So, which camp are you in? You don’t need to wait until you’re on your last legs to make a will. In fact, that’s not a good idea at all as you want to be in a sound frame of mind when you sit down to get your affairs in order. Whether you’re young or old, in the prime of health or ill, now is the time to begin.

If your affairs are fairly simple, you can download or purchase a will creation kit and do it yourself as long as you get it properly signed and make sure it complies with the laws of your province, state, or country. Personally, I recommend using a lawyer or a financial planner. These professionals know the ins and outs of tax law and other areas which may benefit you in excess of the fees you will pay to them. Think of it as an investment in your loved ones. After all, you want your hard-earned assets to go to them, right?

You’ll need to gather the relevant information: bank account details, investments, trusts, insurance policies and any other financial particulars. And don’t forget any little pots of cash you’ve squirrelled away in your sock drawer or at the back of your bookshelf. And don’t overlook the fact that you will need to choose an executor to manage your will after you’ve passed away.

How do you choose an executor? Firstly, it should be someone you trust. For many, that might be your lawyer or accountant. The other advantage that has is that they are usually more objective than a family member might be and not emotionally involved. Choosing a family member might be more appropriate but keep in mind that presiding over the management of a will can be time-consuming and emotional. It’s important to talk with the person first to make sure they are up to the task. Don’t just drop this responsibility on them at the last minute. Remember that a family member will be grieving over your loss too. Talk it over and answer their questions. Someone close to you may have the advantage of knowing where you keep things and having a better insight into your wishes than a stranger. And finally, remember that you can appoint alternate executors in case your first choice is unable to carry out the job.

One more thing regarding your finances. What happens if you end up in the hospital and can’t manage your finances? That’s where your power-of-attorney comes in. That’s a person you designate to manage your finances on your behalf when you are not able. Their power only comes into being when you’re incapacitated and unable to attend to your legal and financial matters. It ends when you revoke the power-of-attorney (in writing) or when you pass away. However, there are different kinds of powers-of-attorney so it’s advisable to consult a lawyer or end-of-life planning adviser to find out what’s the best option for you.

You may not be able to take your money with you but you can make arrangements for its dispersal in your will. Think of a will as a gift to your loved ones. Don’t wait. Make a commitment to get it done this month.

Creating a will and your powers-of-attorney are just one aspect of comprehensive end-of-life planning. To learn more about how you can create your end-of-life plan, contact me using the information below.

Michael Williams is an accredited Before I Go Solutions® end-of-life planning facilitator and educator. He lives in Hamilton, Ontario Canada and can be reached at michaelwilliams@beforeigosolutions.com or by visiting www.beforeigosolutions.com.

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