Planning for the Unthinkable

No one wants to contemplate the likelihood of a spouse’s death. It’s the type of topic we’d rather not think about and no one wants to talk about how the survivor will sort out the final details.

The death of a spouse or loved one is horrific enough, yet we make some of our most important financial decisions during this difficult time. No matter how relaxed you feel or how much you think it’s not going to happen to you, you still need to sit down and talk about it. Unfortunately, planning often necessitates asking hard questions.

What can you do now?  Here are some guidelines:

  • Prepare a will. A will is the foundation in determining how your personal and real property is divided at death. More importantly, it can name a guardian to care for minor children, in the event both parents die. Hiring an attorney to write your will is relatively inexpensive if you do not have a complicated or large estate. Alternatively, parents with young children could consider a Michigan Statutory Will. This fill-in-the-blank will can be a good temporary solution for those with little assets whose main concern is the naming a guardian for minor children.
  • Write a letter of instruction. This is not a legal document; it’s a list of everything that you own and owe and where it can be located. It should list the location and policy numbers of life insurance, checking and savings accounts, investments, real estate titles, stock certificates, safety deposit boxes, credit cards, motor vehicle titles, employee benefits, debts and other personal property. This is a roadmap left behind to help loved ones administer your estate in a difficult time.
  • Purchase enough life insurance to ensure that your family will be taken care of. How much you need depends on your age, your assets, how many years you want to provide for your family, and your current lifestyle. Consider consulting a financial advisor or insurance agent to determine the proper coverage for your particular situation.

– Timothy Wyman, CFP, JD

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