Much of the thought we put into financial planning and preparing for retirement is self-focused: How much do I need to retire? Am I saving enough? However, when we die, our survivors will have some important decisions to make about our finances. Putting our affairs in order now can make a difficult time for them a little less uncertain.
Organize Your Documents
The first step to putting your affairs in order is collecting all the assorted records, certificates and other paper work in a secure place. You’ll also want to write down names and phone numbers for any friends or business associates who could be helpful (like your attorney, accountant, financial planner, insurance agent or the executor of your will).
Our form, Where My Assets Are (VO1848), can help your survivors find these important documents. Fill it out, then review it and update it regularly.
Talk to Your Loved Ones
You may not feel comfortable discussing death with your friends and loved ones. However, all the preparation in the world won’t do you any good if you keep your plans a secret.
- Once you’ve collected your files and put together a list, let your potential survivors know where it is. It’s important that they know where your assets and documents are.
- Review your finances with your loved ones, including your children.
- Make sure your beneficiaries understand that it can take up to 13 weeks between notification of your death and payment of any death benefit or the beginning of any continuing benefit (if you selected an option that provides a continuing benefit). Death benefits cannot be paid until we have a certified death certificate. Make sure we have correct addresses for your beneficiaries.
- Discuss your funeral and burial preferences, and let your family know about any arrangements you have already made.
- Work with an attorney to prepare a will or trust.
- Consider advance directives, such as a durable power of attorney, living will, health care proxy or do-not-resuscitate order. If you have minor children, be sure to name a guardian for them in the event of your death. If you have a child with a disability, it’s a good idea to consult a professional who can help you navigate complex Medicaid and Medicare rules. You may also want to consider the NY ABLE program.
Finally, let your potential survivors know about our publication, Getting Your Affairs in Order and A Guide for Survivors. The second half is full of guidance on what to do and who to contact if a loved one dies.