Isn’t it ironic that after 8 years of putting out my newsletter and talking to people about the importance of advance care planning, we are faced with a healthcare challenge of monumental proportion? One that emphasizes end of life plan reasons but, equally if not more importantly advance care planning, in many ways.
As I sit down to write my 100th newsletter, the current COVID-19 pandemic is sweeping the world and there is a special urgency to do advance care planning; by having the conversation, identifying someone to speak for you, and completing an advance directive.
Every day, there are new articles, by people who have never addressed the subject before, touting the importance of doing an advance directive and doing it NOW!
I receive calls from reporters asking for clarifications and quotes about how to make the process work. The momentum is building and hopefully people will take heed to the warning to have their conversations and complete their directives. This would be wonderful as it would be great to have something positive come out of this pandemic.
COVID-19 is a New Call to Action!
Your help is needed to continue to move the bar. If you’ve done your directive already, take a look at it and see if it is still current and meets your needs in this day and age. Update as necessary. Make certain the right people have a copy.
If you haven’t gotten there yet, now is a great time as the resources to plan a funeral, create a Last Will or Living Trust, and advance care planning, are available to make it easy for you to act.
If you still need help, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me. My contact information is below. Talk to your friends and loved ones. You know, those people whom you have mentioned it to before but who haven’t moved forward to do their plan.
Bug them, emphasize its importance. Remind them of the adage:
Failing to Plan – Is Planning to Fail!
They need this for themselves as well as their families. Equally as important, are the healthcare workers who are doing such a Herculean effort during these trying times. Make sure that they have access to people’s advance directives. This will allow them to be guided by the goals and preferences of their patients and not guessing what the best treatment course for a particular individual might be.
I have neighbors who have been very clear as to their plans. They are sheltering in place because of their ages and their medical conditions. They have made it very clear that they will not go to the hospital if they should come down with the COVID-19 virus. They feel strongly that they are at that point in their lives that they do not wish to go on the ventilator or receive aggressive care during their end of life stages. If they can survive the virus from home, great. If not, it was meant to be.
Now, let me be clear, I am not suggesting that other people should take this stance. We all need and deserve to make our own decisions whatever may be best for each of us individually. Thus, the advance directive is a critically necessary important part of your end of life planning and funeral estate planning!! Remember, it is still critically important to:
Most of us have heard the old adage; “the two certainties in life are death and taxes“. As a result of this statement, National Healthcare Decisions Day comes every year on April 16th, the day after taxes. The goal is to attempt to bring these two matters together.
Jane Markley tells her clients; “Most of us dutifully complete our taxes every year. So why not also make time to review your end of life plans and advance directives as well?” Truth be told, completing your plans for death requires much less time and effort than completing your taxes. Furthermore, completing your death matters only needs to be done once, whereas taxes must be completed each and every year.
It’s NEVER Too Soon
For those of you who haven’t had “the end of life conversation”, and/or documented your healthcare wishes and other final plans and preferences, please remember this all-important statement: It’s only too soon…until it is too late.”
When it comes to death and taxes, it is very easy to find reasons to procrastinate and postpone these matters. However, please let us help you preplan and “give the gift of love” to your family and friends.
Don’t wait for the crisis. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Don’t leave your loves ones in a difficult situation. Don’t wait until it’s to late to learn how to prepay funeral expenses. Let us help you make this difficult situation a little easier. Let us help you have “the conversation” now, plan and prepare in advance today!
Your First Step is EASY
A great way to start is to click here and access our free Family Record Guide. You won’t regret it, your loved ones will thank you, and you will leave a legacy of love!
It’s no surprise that identity thieves are running rampant, however it’s a shocking fact that these scammers are using the personal information and vital statistics of more than 2,000 deceased people every day. An ID Analytics study recently revealed that the misuse of social security numbers belonging to the deceased occurs more than 1.5 million times every year. Are the identities of your deceased loved ones protected from these identity thieves?
Protect Identity Today
In the same way people provide protection for their families using funeral insurance to cover funeral costs and burial expenses and replace lost income after a death, many people today are also taking additional steps to ensure their loved ones left behind aren’t abused by scam artists.
Be proactive to protect your family. Take the proper steps to provide protection against identity theft while you are alive. Enroll in a service like LifeLock.com to monitor credit reports and inquiries, applications for utility and wireless service, and many other aspects of personal information to reduce the risk of exposure. Monitor your online bank activities, guard your social security number and private information, and keep your digital devices protected with reliable security software to deter fraudsters from gathering your personal data and vital statistics.
Make Final Preparations
Coping with the loss of a loved one is emotionally and physically challenging for most people, and on top of the grief, it often takes weeks, or even months, to notify creditors and vendors after someone dies. Unfortunately, scammers and identity thieves get started immediately after they see perform an obituary search or read a newspaper report that announces a death.
Assign a friend or relative to take charge of reporting your death immediately. Or consider hiring a funeral estate planning attorney to handle all notifications. Recommendations from AARP.com include contacting the Social Security Administration (1-800-772-1213), sending death certificates to the three major credit reporting agencies—Experian, Equifax and TransUnion—and asking financial institutions and creditors to mark accounts closed due to death. The IRS should also be notified as soon as possible to prevent fraudsters from filing for a tax refund with the deceased person’s information or claiming the deceased as a dependent on future returns.
Block the Channels
The best time to consider identity theft is before it happens. Make sure you create a love drawer with a list of everyone—businesses, government agencies and individuals who have access now, or might have acquired your information in the past. Include medical providers, lawyers, the IRS, the Social Security Administration, banks, creditors and even your landscape and pest control contractors.
Prepare a simple form letter that informs recipients of your death in advance. Assign someone to mail these letters, preferably by certified mail, immediately after your death. Ask your designated helper to cancel your voter registration card, drivers license and online social media accounts (learn more about digital estate planning).
Work With the Credit Bureaus
The credit reporting agency Experian advises that credit bureaus periodically update records with information received from the Social Security Administration to flag files when people pass away. It could take up to six months for the information to be transferred so, having someone designated to report the death is preferable to waiting for agency notification. To protect against fraud, survivors should request credit reports every few months after a loved one passes to be sure no one is trying to assume the deceased identity.
There are few things in life that are certain, but one thing that can be relied upon is that we will all die. Although death is an absolute certainty for every single one of us, society at large still seems to find it difficult to discuss funeral planning, death and dying. Death has always been something of a taboo subject, but even in these relatively enlightened times it is still a topic that causes some to react with disgust, fear or denial.
As a result, to plan a funeral for yourself or a loved one can be tricky at best. It is important that everyone gets the kind of funeral plan that respects their beliefs and wishes. However, if these are not discussed in advance, it is difficult for those left behind to know how the best ways to handle these difficult decisions after a person has died.
Fear of Death and Dying
It’s understandable that, as a species intent on survival, we are reticent about discussing our inevitable demise. Fear of death can encompass a number of things including concerns about grief and loss, worry about pain or suffering, fear of the unknown, and bereavement. There is also the sense that in death, things that an individual values such as family, friends and loved ones will be lost.
Many people have superstitious beliefs concerning death and dying that can hinder their willingness to talk about their end of life plans and preferences – and what should happen after they’re gone. The belief that talking about death is somehow “tempting fate” or will hasten death is common and will cause problems with making clear plans for what should happen after death.
Some deaths are more predictable than others, and those people who are diagnosed with a medical condition with a prognosis of shortened life may be in a better position for terminally ill planning since they have “some” idea of how much life they have left. Still, even those people for whom death is imminent may not wish to talk about it.
Death and Money – The Perfect Storm of Taboos
If there is one topic that draws an equal amount of discomfort for open discussion, it is an individual’s personal financial affairs. In working through a funeral planning checklist, the subjects of money and death are brought together in a clash of two of the strongest taboo subjects for discussion in polite conversation.
According to AARP, today’s average funeral costs can run upwards of $10,000. Clearly this is no small consideration when facing things like funeral estate planning and finding the money to pay for the essentials after a death. In addition to adding the stress of finding this money to the worry about doing the right thing, you also have the drawbacks of not discussing how to plan your funeral with loved ones when the opportunity has always been available. So these drawbacks significantly outweigh the discomfort of talking about things that are often left unsaid.
An Open Conversation About Death
Although it is hard for some people to talk about dying, it is an extremely important conversation to have. Without an understanding of what a person’s wishes are for their end of life funeral arrangements, families can be left in a difficult position of trying to second guess what their loved one would have wanted after their death. Don’t leave it too late to have the conversation.
If you preplan a funeral, it gives you the opportunity to talk about preferences, funeral costs, and the way in which you want to be remembered. This includes even the little details such what you want to say in your obituary, what kind of memorial service you would like, what to put on your monuments or head stone, or even new memorial technology for gravestones.
Getting your funeral plan, preferences, and finances in place early means that both the dying person and the family left behind have the peace of mind to knowing that the right thing was done, and the funeral plan and money are available to ensure the deceased’s wishes are fulfilled.
Death and dying is one of the final taboos for discussion in our society. However, making sure that everyone is clear about what they want in death and their wishes for their funeral can bring peace of mind to all concerned.
When suffering from the grief and loss of a loved one, it can be the most painful and stressful time in our life. It’s important to surround our selves with close family or friends as a support system.
The experience is one that can seem like time is standing still because of the grief, but at same the time, it can be quite overwhelming and as if time were flying right past us. When someone we love passes away, there are so many details that need to be considered while grieving. That process in-and-of-itself can be painful. Funeral arrangements, memorial services, obtaining death certificates, and legal matters are all part of the details involved in losing a loved one.
Things like inheritance and estate tax issues don’t need to be addressed immediately. Focusing on our friends and family are obviously more important. But eventually the details will need our attention.
Helpful Considerations When Facing a Loss:
Is Life Insurance Taxable?
While life insurance proceeds are included in the estate, they are not taxable (as income) to beneficiaries. However, you should contact the life insurance company to understand the procedure to cashing in their policy. Typically insurance companies will require a claim form and death certificate. But generally, life insurance is not taxable to inheritors. (Click to learn more about burial insurance and/or funeral insurance)
What is My Inheritance Tax Rate?
Inheritance tax will vary from state-to-state. Typically if the value of the estate that’s being inherited is high in value, your tax rate will be higher as well.
For example, tax preparers in Indianapolis, Indiana will tell you that Indiana’s inheritance tax system breaks the heirs or inheritors into three classes or groups. Systems in Pennsylvania are very different. For Indiana, each group has different rate schedules and exemptions. Here’s how this looks according to the Indiana Department of Revenue:
• Class A – direct ancestor or descendant, stepchildren, direct descendant of a stepchild: $100,000 exemption.
• Class B – siblings, descendants of sibling, spouse, widow or widower of your child: $500 exemption
• Class C – anyone else excluding spouse: $100 exemption
Are Bank Accounts Taxable?
Revenue-producing assets like bank accounts and stacks are not taxable upon inheriting them. However, the income that these assets generate is taxable to the recipient.
What About Pensions and IRA’s
A person inheriting a pension or IRA is required to pay taxes on the amount received, as the decedent (person who is deceased) would have during their life. An IRA or similar fund can be rolled over tax-free into the beneficiary’s name and treat it as their own.
While things like estate and inheritance tax is, by no means, the most important item to address when we suffer the loss of a loved one, it is important to understand what is and is not taxable during these times. Estate and inheritance taxes can be burdensome and stressful, but in some cases, an inheritance is not taxable to you.
Estate lawyers are available to help guide us during times of funeral estate planning, but they can often be costly. Check with your tax preparer or attorney handling the estate as to what you need to know when sorting out inheritance and estate issues.
When my grandmother passed away, my mother was named as executor of her funeral estate planning and was left with a house full of memories and possessions to distribute. After she and her siblings divided those belongings that they wanted, there were still many items left. My mother didn’t feel right selling these things, so she donated everything, in order to help others in need.
Clothing and Shoes
Clothing items can be donated to second-hand stores, homeless shelters, or battered women’s shelters. There are often used clothing drives in the fall and winter, and coats, gloves/mittens, scarves and boots are especially important donations during this time.
If these items are in good condition, homeless shelters will put them to use, especially in the winter months. Additionally, hospices can always use quality donations in order to make their patients as comfortable as possible in their final days.
Books, Videos and CDs
With budget cuts, many schools and libraries are unable to buy new materials as often as they would like, which negatively impacts their students and patrons. By donating to these establishments, you are helping your community and aiding in the education of others.
Dishes, Silverware, and Food-Related Utensils
Homeless shelters that cater to families are often divided into small apartments, complete with kitchens. By donating to these organizations, you can help a family sit down to a home cooked meal, thus providing stability during a difficult time.
Knick-Knacks, Artwork, and the Like
These are often tricky to donate, as many are personal mementos or are considered clutter by others. Residents of nursing homes, and those suffering from a terminal illness, can often live in drab surroundings. Therefore, items such as these can brighten their rooms and bring smiles to their faces.
Craig’s List is a great place to find people in need of free furniture. When posting, be sure to include a photo, and request that prospective owners pick up the furniture. Be cautious when using sites such as these, though, and use common sense when allowing strangers into your home.
Used Medical Equipment
It is not uncommon to have used medical equipment left after a loved one’s death, especially in the case of a prolonged illness or severe injury. When left with a wheelchair, walker, shower chair, or other equipment, find an area hospice in need of your items. These are often nonprofit, and can always use quality donations.
The death of a loved one can be a devastating time. The last thing you want to worry about is what to do with their possessions once they are gone.
However, with a little thought and end of life planning, you can make this a relatively painless process, and one that can be handled quickly and efficiently, so you can begin to move past your tragedy and start the grief and loss and healing process.
10 Most Common Questions Families Ask About Estate Planning, Last Wills, and Living Trusts
1. What is a Will?
A Last Will is signed writing in which a person (often referred to as the “testator”) directs what is to be done with his or her property after death. Each state has its own very specific laws as to what is necessary for a Last Will to be valid in that state.
2. Who Can Create a Will?
Any mentally competent person who is at least 18 years old may make a Last Will. However, later proof of any fraud, duress, or undue influence by another person or the testator may cause the Last Will to be invalid.
3. Who Should Have a Will…and Why?
Every mentally competent adult should have a Last Will. Here are a few of the reasons:
• You can direct how you want your property divided at your death.
• You can name the person you want to handle you estate (called the “executor” or “personal representative”).
• You can reduce the expenses of administering your estate.
• You can save taxes.
• You can nominate a guardian for your minor children.
• You may provide for a trust for the support and education of your children without the necessity of costly court proceedings.
4. Does a Will Need to Be Witnessed? Does a Will Need to Be Notarized?
Generally, most states require that the signing of a Last Will must be witnessed by two competent persons, who also must sign the Last Will in front of the testator. (An exception to the witness requirement is made if the testator writes out the entire Last Will in his or her own handwriting, and signs and dates it.)
Although the law does not require a Last Will to be notarized, it is a highly recommended practice, followed by most lawyers. If the testator’s and witnesses’ signatures have been notarized, the Last Will is presumed to be properly executed and is accepted by the court without testimony from the witness.
5. How Long is a Last Will Valid?
Your Last Will is valid until you revoke it generally either by physical destruction (tearing or burning it up, for example) or by signing a superseding Last Will or written revocation. However, if you get divorced after signing a Last Will, the law may consider the Last Will partially revoked. Also, if you are married, your spouse may have rights in your estate regardless of what is provided in your Last Will.
6. Can a Will Be Changed?
Your Last Will does not take effect until you die; therefore, it can be changed at any time during your life as long as you are mentally competent. Traditionally, Last Wills were changed by an amending instrument called a “codicil,” but with the development of modern word processing technology, it is usually better and just as easy to sign an entirely new Last Will when you wish to make changes.
7. What Happens If You Don’t Have a Will?
If you don’t have a Last Will, a state statute directs who receives you property, regardless of your wishes. For example, in my home state of Virginia, if you are married, your estate generally passes entirely to your surviving spouse; however, if you have children who are not also the children of your spouse, your children divided two-third of your estate, and your spouse takes the other one-third.
8. Is Joint Ownership a Good Substitute For a Last Will?
In most cases, joint ownership is not an acceptable substitute for a Last Will. Contrary to popular belief, joint ownership of assets between husband and wife often results in excessive estate takes. Joint ownership between parent and child may foster disputes between family members and cause unexpected and unnecessary gift taxes.
9. Is a Trust (Also referred to as a Revocable Living Trust) a Substitute for a Will?
A properly funded Revocable Living Trust can be a valuable and important part of the estate plan for many people, but it does not eliminate the need for a Last Will. If you have a Living Trust, you will still need a Last Will to dispose of those assets that have not or cannot be placed into the Living Trust.
As useful as they are, Living Trusts are not appropriate for everyone. Only your lawyer can tell you if you should consider one, and only you lawyer should prepare it.
10. Who Should Draft Your Last Will?
A person who drafts a Last Will must be familiar with the law in order to avoid the many pitfalls and to comply with the formalities necessary to assure the Last Will’s validity. Only a practicing lawyer is professionally qualified to give you advice regarding your Last Will, to prepare your Last Will, and to supervise it’s signing.
A Few More Practical Suggestions:
More than 70% of Americans Die Without Leaving Behind a Last Will. Planning your financial affairs, and coordinating this with your estate plan, is a very personal and individual matter. You should decide for yourself the general purpose you wish to accomplish, and then consult with a seasoned estate planning attorney, financial advisor, and CPA if you want to have a coordinated and comprehensive plan, which integrates and accomplishes all of your financial goals and objectives.
Four practical steps to save time and help assure a sound result:
1. Inventory you assets. List in reasonable detail all of your property, real and personal, life insurance policies, and retirement plans, with your best assessment of their values.
2. Inventory your liabilities. List all debts and obligations, including principal amounts, payees, and essential terms.
3. List your family members and any other persons whom you wish to participate in your estate. Decide who might be an appropriate executor, trustee, or guardian for your minor children.
4. Decide what you want to accomplish. Determine what your objectives are, and to whom you wish your assets distributed.
Getting Started is Easy:
It just takes five easy steps, where your only cost will be your time:
Step One: Spend some time with your existing financial advisor, or an experienced financial advisor in your local area, so you can review the basic details your “big picture financial plan” together
Step Two: Your financial advisor will review this information and help you assess confirm exactly what your estate planning needs and preferences are
Step Three: Once your financial advisor reviews your overall estate planning needs, they can help you understand exactly how Wills and Trusts work, as well as which one they feel fits your situation best
Step Four: After you are fully comfortable and confident with their recommendation, you can consult with a seasoned estate planning attorney who can help you properly draft these documents and details
Step Five: Arguably the most important step, and often overlooked, is making sure that your estate planning attorney, financial advisor, and CPA are all working together to ensure all of your estate plans and preferences are coordinated and working properly with your “big picture financial plan”.
FuneralResources.com, the nation’s leading family-focused online Resource Center for funeral planning and preplanning, announced today they will be selecting Entrustet as a Preferred Provider for their Digital Estate Planning services.
Entrustet’s Account Guardian is a free service that allows consumers to securely list all of their digital assets. Digital assets include any accounts which are currently being accessed through the Internet, as well as computer files. By storing this digital information in a safe and secure place such as what Entrustet offers, this provides people and families with the option of transferring or deleting this information in the event someone passes.
To find our more information about this partnership, simply visit FuneralResources.com and click on their “Funeral Memorial Technology”tab, and then click on the drop-down link entitled “Digital Estate Planning Services”.
Hill points out that; “Today, when a family or Funeral Director visits FuneralResources.com, our Resource Center is filled with helpful articles, brief educational videos, grief counseling and support, common funeral planning merchandise and services, as well as just about every new and innovative funeral technology tool, such as Entrustet.”
Hill’s goal with FuneralResources.com is to help raise awareness about any helpful tools that can help make such a difficult situation a little easier. Another goal is to provide quick and easy access to resources such as articles, free How-To Funeral Guides, and the constantly evolving and growing number of useful tools and technologies that most families and Funeral Directors are commonly searching for. Given the growth of the Internet, Social Networking, and more, having a place to store your Digital Estate Planning Assets will inevitably continue to grow, becoming a larger part of Last Will, Living Trust, and/or Funeral Estate Planning process in the years ahead.
Entrustet is a free online service that allows you to securely list all of your digital assets, which are online accounts and files on your computer, and decide if you’d like them transferred to heirs or deleted when you pass away. Through its free Account Guardian service, individuals protect their digital assets by deleting them or designating heirs to oversee their personal information after their death. Users can also choose to delete private files and accounts by using the Account Incinerator. Other services include the Lawyer Directory for lawyer referrals and the Corporate Partner Program in which companies can protect their users’ last wishes.
Like so many families, when we suffered the loss of my mother last year we faced the difficult decision of what to do next. Because we were never willing to accept this as a possible outcome, nor did we think about planning in advance for this incomprehensible loss, we had no idea where to begin or who we could turn to.
Most people tend to overlook one of the greatest gifts you will give your family, which is properly preparing them for the inevitable. At best, you might have started your estate planning process by creating and choosing a Last Will or Living Trust.
However, the harsh reality is that approximately over 70% of Americans have no form of estate plan. So by having a will or Trust, you have clearly taken a step in the right direction toward preplanning your future financial wishes. The problem is, this form of planning fails to accomplish the most important task, which is addressing your family’s immediate concerns.
The person, or in most cases people, responsible for taking care of your final arrangements are usually forced to make extremely important decisions, as well as major financial purchases, within a small time frame…usually within approximately 48 hours after your death. Of course, you cannot expect to fully alleviate the emotional and financial stresses of your loved ones during such a difficult time, but you can help them tremendously by having a plan that outlines your funeral wishes.
Most financial professionals are realizing that an integral part of a sound financial and estate plan is taking care of your funeral services ahead of time. To preplan a funeral gives you the ability to choose your method of disposition, the exact type of services you want, and allows your family to focus more on things such as grieving and recovery. In addition, preplanning is also a good thing for you because it allows you to make extremely important decisions through a calm and clear thought process. Emotionally, it is much more likely that you will create a more rational and logical end of life plan.
When preplanning your funeral, here are several general guidelines to begin your preplanning process:
* Visit various funeral homes and interview multiple funeral directors
* Choose a funeral home and director where you think your family would be most comfortable
* Consider bringing family members with you during this selection process
* Be aware and informed of bereavement entitlements such as veterans, unions, fraternities, etc.
* Consider religious and moral convictions, and discuss them with your family
* Determine your method of disposition (burial, cemetery, entombment, cremation, etc.)
* Plan your ceremony considering things like casket viewing, religious aspects, who should be included, etc.
* Itemize your costs
* The Federal Trade Commission offers a free funeral planning guide titled “Caskets and Burial Vaults” (202-326-2222) which has made it easier for consumers to comparison shop.
* The FTC Funeral Rule requires funeral directors to give pricing information over the phone, as well as provide you with a readily available General Price List if you visit them in person. This FTC Funeral Rule also allows you to purchase caskets, which are the single largest funeral expense, from outside vendors without the threat of a carrying charge.
What About Paying For Funeral Expenses In Advance?
Although planning your funeral arrangements in advance may help alleviate many of the details, prepaying (also known as prearranging or a Pre Need Plan) for your funeral services is a way of taking care of the actual expenses.
Prepaying your funeral or cremation is one of the fastest growing, and most appreciated and accepted aspects of funeral planning. Similar to preplanning your funeral, paying your funeral expenses in advance is also becoming widely accepted by many financial professionals as a solid piece of a sound financial and estate plan.
When prepaying your funeral plan, the most common and widely used strategies are savings and life insurance, mainly because they tend to be deemed the most reliable and readily available. However, there are several other strategies to consider when prepaying your funeral costs or expenses:
Although many people choose to set aside savings to pay for funeral expenses, there are several reasons this does not always end up working out as originally planned. First, the savings can be depleted based on unexpected financial circumstances, such as health or financial issues. Second, these funds are not always readily available and liquid upon death due to the challenges and restrictions often found in estate planning. Third, the funds set aside can often be insufficient due to inflation and the rising cost of funeral expenses. Finally, it should be noted that savings are included in a part of one’s estate, and, thus, the taxable consequences can often come into play.
Term Life Insurance is widely considered to be a flexible, simple, and affordable way to pay for your final funeral expenses. Although Term Life Insurance has a set term, or set number of years, it also has multiple uses in prepaying for your funeral. Because upon your death it becomes a liquid asset that is usually not part of your estate, it can be used for many things such as funeral, burial, cremation, liquidity, and many other things, including debts or obligations.
In addition, there are some types of life insurance that allow the funds contributed to these policies (either in lump sum, monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, or annually) to grow and accumulate as a cash value that can be accessed if necessary. Therefore, these policies can not only be used for funeral expenses, but also for other financial planning options that may arise such as financial emergencies, college, etc.
Funeral insurance is an insurance policy which is specifically designed to cover any costs or expenses which are directly related to your funeral. If you purchase one of these policies, one of the options you have is to determine exactly which funeral costs or expenses are to be covered, such as flowers, burial plot, grave marker, and much more.
Another option you have is for the policy to be paid out in a single lump-sum, which can be used to cover your pre-determined costs or expenses, or simply help your loved ones financially as they plan for you. There are many insurance companies that offer funeral insurance packages, and certain funeral homes or funeral companies also offer policies.
Pre-Need Trust Agreements
Another alternative to prepaying your funeral is to consider a Pre-Need Trust Agreement to pay for your costs or expenses. Generally speaking, these Trust accounts are typically funded with monthly payments that are invested in a fund which is designed to grow over time. Although a Trust account is designed to provide the potential for protection against inflation, it is not guaranteed to do so.
Take the First Step Today
In summary, although nobody likes to think or talk about dying, it is one of the facts of life we all must eventually face. If you are trying to build a successful financial plan, the only way you can be sure your plan works smoothly and efficiently is to be proactive about your planning process. This is particularly true and necessary when creating a proper plan of succession, which I firmly believe should include an end-of-life plan.
There are three common situations where families need funeral planning information, guidance, and support:
1. A loved one has recently passed:
One of the best ways to reduce the stress and pressure involved when you need to plan a funeral is to make sure you’re well prepared. This involves being able to access helpful information, people, places, and resources. It also helps to start with a plan.
FuneralResources.com is solely designed to help you find complete details regarding everything you need to know when facing any type of funeral planning. Our goal is to help you organize this process and ensure educated and clear decision-making, as well as provide access to pre-screened funeral homes and professionals.
2. A loved one has been diagnosed as terminally ill:
There is usually a tremendous amount of chaos surrounding funeral planning, especially when the loved one in question has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. At such a time, you will likely be overcome with grief and loss, and need someone slightly more removed from your loved one, such as professional grief counseling, to act objectively and handle the many options and responsibilities of planning a funeral in advance.
Key considerations when faced with a terminal illness:
a) Review the Last Will of your loved one to learn of any special or unique arrangements they might have in place. The goal here is to find any plans or preferences regarding their end of life planning, as well as to see if they might have accomplished any preplanning.
b) If established, be sure to review their Living Will and Advanced Medical Directives. These documents can become extremely important in the event certain difficult health circumstances arise. The goal of these documents is to ensure their last wishes are carried out by the people closest to them in the event they become physically or mentally incapable of making these choices on their own.
c) If everyone mutually agrees that the Last Will or Living Trust is not going to be discussed or reviewed until after death, we strongly suggest that you consult with a funeral estate planning attorney to review the Last Will and identify if there are any special instructions concerning their last wishes.
d) Inform certain key people of what likely lies ahead including immediate family, friends and relatives, co-workers, insurance companies, a family doctor, the Cemetery or other burial place, other organizations such as churches, social clubs, etc.
3. Preplanning your end-of-life plans and preferences
In the past, planning for your death in advance was considered to be taboo. Today, preplanning a funeral and the accompanying arrangements is a popular decision and should be considered an important part of planning for the future. There are many reasons to consider learning more about the 3 ways to preplan a funeral. The most important reason is because it reduces or eliminates the emotional and financial pressure of making difficult decisions during life’s most challenging circumstances. In addition, prearrangements also let you choose exactly how you want to be memorialized and allows for personal preferences in all aspects of the funeral service. Not only is this becoming a widely accepted part of a sound comprehensive financial plan, but we firmly believe this is one of the greatest gifts you can leave your loved ones.
The Differences Between a Last Will and Living Trust?
Which One is Best For You?
Who Should Have a Last Will?
The sad truth is that most financial advisors and estate planning attorney’s will tell you that approximately 70% of Americans die without and End of Life Plan or Last Will, also known as a Last Will and Testament. In my opinion, this is totally unacceptable! Why? Because I am fully confident that most of us:
• Truly love our family and loved ones
• Would prefer not to place any unnecessary or additional burden on our loved ones during a time of terrible emotional loss
Please allow me to explain why funeral estate planning is so important. Should you pass without so much as a Last Will, the unfortunate reality is that state law will determine how your property is distributed, as well as take control of your estate if you should you become disabled or incompetent.
The Statute Called “The Law of Intestate”
The best way I have found to describe intestate is simply; “having a lawsuit with your state of domicile over the management of your estate”. Put another way, it will not be you or your family who ultimately decides what happens to your assets, your children, and your financial legacy – but rather your state, the government, and your least favorite uncle – Uncle Sam.
I think it is safe to say that your personal wishes for the disposition of your money, children, estate, well-being, and how you want to be remembered would not be exactly the same as that of your state or local government. Therefore, dying without a Last Will is going to put your family through an extremely difficult, time-consuming, and expensive ordeal…at a time when they should be focusing on celebrating your life and the wonderful memories you’ve left behind.
So I think you can reasonably conclude that I firmly believe that everyone, regardless of your net worth, marital status, or age, should have a fully completed and executed Last Will!
Why? Creating a Last Will accomplishes two extremely important things for both you and your family. First, it helps protect you against scenarios in the event something happens unexpectedly such as a disability, incapacity, severe accident, coma, amnesia, etc. Second, as I mentioned above, it becomes one of the greatest gifts we can give our loved ones by making this difficult period easier, less emotional, time-consuming, expensive, and uncertainty.
Why Would Someone Choose a Living Trust?
Most Estate Planning Attorneys will agree that a better and more useful funeral estate planning tool is using a Living Trust, also known as a Revocable Living Trust.
One of the most common questions most families ask is “What are the advantages of creating a Living Trust versus a Last Will”? Well, although a properly structured Last Will is a “must-have”, one of the biggest disadvantages with having a simple Last Will is that it must go through probate.
What is Probate?
Probate is a court supervised procedure by which the court ensures that the assets governed by your Last Will are valued properly, the debts of your estate are paid off, and the remaining assets are properly distributed to the persons named in your Last Will.
The probate process is typically a negative experience, to say the least. Here’s why:
• It is expensive. Legal and executor fees and other costs must be paid from your estate before anything can go to your heirs. The costs are usually estimated at 1-5% of the gross value of an estate (before debts are paid).
• It takes time. Often 1-2 years or longer, depending on your state. During this time, assets are usually frozen and nothing can be distributed or sold without the courts approval. If your family needs money to live, they may have to ask the court for a living allowance, which the court may or may not approve.
• Your family has no privacy. Probate files are open to the public, so anyone (including a business competitor) can see what you owned and whom you owed. This knowledge can also invite disgruntled heirs to contest your Last Will.
• Your family has no control. The probate process controls, and it can be very frustrating for your family to have to pay for the court to tell them who gets what money and when. This frustration very often leads to family feuds, disputes, and family members may even choose to contest the Will.
So as you can see, probate can be a very emotional and difficult process. If you ask anyone who has been through the probate process (like my father), they will very likely tell you it is something you want to avoid at all costs if possible.
That is why many families choose a Living Trust, also called a Revocable Living Trust. A Trust, if drafted by a seasoned Estate Planning Attorney, can be a comprehensive document that will allow you to avoid many of the challenges when handling a deceased estate, such as:
Avoid the probate process
It is extremely hard to contest
Can potentially reduce or eliminate estate taxes
Will preserve your privacy
Expedite the distribution of your estate
Allows parents of small children (like myself) to give specific instructions to the Trustee or Guardians as to when to make distributions to the children, what they can use the money for, and at what ages to begin letting the children have control over some (or all) of the monies
Many other challenges such as special needs, special instructions, multiple marriage situations, etc.
So Which Is Better…A Last Will or a Living Trust?
The reality is there is no exact answer to this question, simply because either a Last Will or a Living Trust can be deemed as most effective, but largely depends on each families personal situation is unique. Therefore, as with any decision that is extremely important to your financial future, the best way to make the right choice is to seek the help of qualified and credible Estate Planning Attorney who can help you determine whether a Last Will or a Living Trust makes the most sense.
One last suggestion that is very important is making sure you work closely together with both your Financial Advisor and Estate Planning Attorney when determining your most appropriate wealth transfer strategy. The reason why this is so important is because you need to ensure that, whether you create a Last Will or a Living Trust, this document is not only established correctly, but also that it is properly coordinated and integrated with the rest of your comprehensive financial plan.
I cannot encourage you strongly enough to be proactive, and take the first steps towards completing this necessary part of your financial and funeral estate planning.
Personally, I am proud to say that my family and I have completed our Funeral Estate Planning, as well as coordinated it with our comprehensive financial plan. This helps me sleep better at night knowing I have created this all-important gift for my family…and I truly wish the same for you!