It is the ultimate elephant in the room. Death.
To paraphrase Dr. Tom Nelson (Senior Pastor at Christ Community Church in Leawood, Kansas), death stalks us with every step as we walk across the tightrope of time stretched over the great chasm of eternity.
While there is still time, however, there are some key questions you should ask your loved ones before that day arrives.
And, it will arrive for each of us.
So, have you been appointed as the executor of a loved one's estate? If yes, then these questions become all the more important.
A recent AARP article, titled “5 Questions I Wish I Had Asked Before They Died,” is written by Amy Goyer, a professional caregiver with some 30 years of experience and contains some of her lessons learned at the recent passing of both her mother and sister.
While Goyer has her own estate and financial plan prepared, she is planning to be more intentional and open regarding some of the finer details.
Here is a quick look at a few things Goyer recommends discovering/uncovering sooner rather than later:
Where is important paperwork located? Goyer thought she had the most recent versions of her sister’s legal documents. Unfortunately, she did not. Consequently, she had to embark on an unpleasant (and time consuming) "treasure hunt" through mountains of paper.
While your loved ones may know where their key financial and legal documents are located, that is of little assistance if they do not pass that information along to you.
What are the details of what you want for your memorial service? Burial, cremation? From resolving these basics to the finer points, any decisions about the service that can be made in advance are most helpful.
Do not wait.
Disagreements among surviving family members are common, especially when all are experiencing shock and grief following the loss of a loved one.
Common details to cover include music, the service location, speakers, flowers, and food.
Who should get your personal items? Goyer urges you to catalog your collectibles, jewelry, and other special items of tangible personal property. Many states authorize the use of a handwritten, signed and dated list to handle distribution of these items to specific loved ones, typically in conjunction with your will or trust.
Who is in that picture? Does this sound familiar? You are looking through boxes of old family photographs and, while the people look familiar, you just cannot place a name to a face (let alone the location and timeframe).
To avoid this, label each photo when discussing it with your loved ones. This will help preserve a bit of family history in each photo.
Finally, the Goyer encourages you to overcome the natural reluctance to talk about these subjects, let alone death, with your loved ones. Accordingly, she recommends starting the conversation early and often. This will break the emotional inertia, reduce the awkwardness and open the lines of communication to other important matters.
Remember, death is inevitable for each of us. The better prepared we are—in addition to the basic legal documents—the easier it will be when the time comes.
Contact an experienced estate planning attorney to help you navigate this process.
Reference: AARP (March 19, 2015) “5 Questions I Wish I Had Asked Before They Died”