Many people avoid planning their estate or speaking to an estate planning attorney because they fear their own mortality. Let’s face it — pondering your demise and how your survivors will spend your hard-earned assets can be unsettling.
However, like going to the doctor, seeing an estate planning lawyer can grant you peace of mind. Wouldn’t you like to sleep at night knowing that if something should happen to you, the people you love will be taken care of?
Prior to speaking to an estate planning attorney, you should take a moment to write down and answer the following difficult, yet often overlooked questions:
1. Have I listed my passwords and security codes for my accounts? In the digital age it is easy to accumulate a notebook full of account usernames and passwords for online banks, social media sites and investment institutions. In the event of your death, what will happen to these accounts? Who will manage them? Will they expire? Should they expire? Will they even be accessible? Questions about digital assets are very important.
2. Should my family pull the plug if I become incapacitated ? It’s a difficult question to ask and answer, but the reality is that life-changing injuries and diseases occur, especially as we age. If you should fall into a coma or suffer a traumatic brain injury, what do you want to happen? Without explicit instructions, your family may not know what to do.
3. Who will look after Fido after I die? Do you have a dog, cat, bird or other pet? Have you thought about what might happen to him or her after you die? It is important to include specific instructions regarding your pet — if you fail to answer this question, your beloved companion may be carted off to a shelter. A pet trust might be the answer.
4. Is my family aware of ALL of my relationships with others? Imagine this scenario: You’re married for 25 years and have three wonderful children. However, at some point in time you secretly have an extra-marital affair that none of your family members know about. Suddenly at your funeral, your spouse and children encounter your lover — heartache turns sour as two worlds collide. Be sure to ask the attorney about conflicts of interest .
5. Who will raise the kids if my spouse and I both pass away? If you are thinking about your estate plan, surely you’ve thought about what will happen to your kids if you should suddenly die — your spouse will look after them, right? However, what if you and your spouse die together, or shortly after one another? What will become of your children? Make sure you know who your guardians are going to be.
These are only few examples of the type of important questions you need to think about when planning your estate.