Though end-of-life financial planning is often an uncomfortable topic of conversation, it is an important issue to discuss with family, relatives and other loved ones. Proactively building an end-of-life financial plan can help prepare your money, property and other assets for a smooth transition after your death.
“The same way people plan to purchase a home for the first time, plan their birthday parties or plan their weddings is the same way you should plan putting aside funds or sitting with a funeral director to discuss what those costs will be if one of your loved ones passes away or if you pass away,” said Evans St. Fort, funeral director and C.E.O. at St. Fort’s Funeral Home and Cremation in North Miami Beach. Proper end-of-life financial planning now will keep your loved ones protected into the future and reduce the paperwork they must manage later.
Last Will and Testament
A will is essential to end-of-life financial planning. It is essentially a legal document that outlines how a person’s money, property and other assets will be distributed upon their death, and who has the authority to take charge of that work. When planning your will, it is important to name an executor – the person you choose to carry out its terms. Your executor should be someone you trust enough to give access to your personal records and finances after you go.
Creating a will ensures that family knows how to distribute your assets according to your wishes. Without a will, the state has the authority to make important decisions that might not align with your desires and that could cost family members or business partners money for legal representation in probate court. It is worth noting that insurance plans can only distribute to people listed as beneficiaries, regardless of who is named in a will, so it is important to make sure those details match.
Life insurance is necessary for those whose passing would be a financial blow to others in their life. For example, most parents get life insurance coverage to replace income needed to support their children, elderly parents or other loved ones in case the worst happens. Life insurance also pays off outstanding debts that would otherwise become your family’s responsibility. “Within insurance, all of it goes to whoever the beneficiary is once you pass,” said St. Fort, “It is going to be one check that you get once the claim is sent.” For most people, term life insurance — one of the less expensive types — is sufficient.
With this coverage, you pay low premiums for a period of time, usually between 10 and 30 years. If you pass during that time frame, a cash benefit is paid to whoever you name as a beneficiary. Permanent life insurance is a bit pricier but remains in force for your entire life as long as premiums are paid. This could be a better option for those who have a lifelong financial dependent, such as a child with a disability who requires aid for daily tasks.
Funerals are expensive. Although estimates vary, a funeral can cost $7,000 to $12,000 or more in the state of Florida. It depends, in part, on whether a loved one is buried or cremated. Common expenses and add-ons include a coffin or urn, burial plot, memorial plaque, headstone, death notice and obituaries and payment for the people involved in a service memorial: mortician, officiant, musicians, caterer and more. One of the best ways to control these costs and limit the burden of decisions left for grieving families is to plan ahead.
Most mortuaries offer assistance with advanced planning for funerals, walking you through common options and their costs. If paid in advance, some mortuaries can manage all the arrangements without relatives having to make any additional payments. Others make sure the costs are covered by a whole life insurance policy. It also is a good idea to make your last wishes known among your loved ones and to include one or two close relatives in your detailed planning.
It is imperative to stay organized and keep track of all the critical details when end-of-life financial planning. Make sure loved ones know where to find your will, insurance documents, financial statements, social security card and other vital records, should you pass. These should also include bank account numbers, military discharge papers, tax records, debt statements, mortgage paperwork and other information about any ongoing obligations. A single, secure location, such as a safe or safety deposit box, is best.
For St. Fort, end-of-life planning simply shows your family that you care. “Real love is saying although I might not want to do this [end-of-life planning], I’m going to, because I love my family and I want them to be in a good situation if I pass,” he said.