A few weeks back, I listened in as Maria Lynch, a Raleigh attorney, spoke to a local group regarding practical estate planning.
I have to give it up to her. She was whip-smart, knew the law, answered questions with wit and personal wisdom. She gave an informative, interesting, likely much-needed talk for free as part of a lecture series hosted by the Cameron Park/ Cameron Village/ Area’s Aging-in-Place focus group.
While giving people advice on how to be more practical, proactive, and informed with one’s estate planning, there were three notable tips about end-of-life planning that stood out for me.
Get Comfortable with the Phrase "When I Die"
We’ve all heard an elder or a parent say “if I pass away…” as if there will be a choice about our end of life scenario. Speaking with demure gentility and so on…
There certainly will be a timing factor for each person’s end of life, but as Ms. Lynch put it: Get used to the sound of the words “when I die,” as those are much more realistic. And, possibly, the ability to say these words could even assist in a person’s level of preparedness when it comes to their own estate planning.
Clean Out the Attic
Ms. Lynch encouraged us to clear out our attics before our children and descendants have to do it for us. Her advice is to get rid of the junk and clutter if you are able prior to them inheriting the chaos and at a highly emotional time, not knowing what to keep and what to discard.
The agony of sorting through a home full of trinkets and treasures that belonged to one of our deceased love ones is just too much work at times, when added to the daily grind of life as it is.
I know from experience my Mom and her siblings had a very tough time with this stage, and our Grandmother had a small, simple one story home. Imagine the work that goes into a large family home that has accumulated stuff for several decades. As Ms. Lynch talked of her own experiences, she recounted becoming the proud owner of eight (8) broken space heaters when her father died. Why? Just doesn’t make sense.
So, get rid of your junk! Clean out your homes, downsize, have it hauled off or given away to charity. Try to be considerate of those who will be cleaning up after you’ve gone to the other side. If it is best to hire someone to help you to begin the task, then do that. Maybe a grandchild or neighborhood kid will help sort through your treasures for a small fee, and they can keep a few items for their own collection.
Plan For Your Passing
Plan and pay for your funeral services and burial or end of life ceremony if you are able to do so. Often times, our loved ones are left to decide these things riddled with guilt and grief and they can make poor decisions, possibly with no guidance.
Pick out your site, pick out your coffin, decide to be dressed in silk with your favorite fresh-cut flowers in place and music playing; or, cremated and thrown into the Mississippi River at Oxford after a large family dinner.
The point is, these are your wishes, so make sure they are known and attended to ahead of time. Whatever you wish, at least make it known to a spouse and one child, sibling, heir, or descendant. And, if you have the means; go ahead and pay for it. No one’s children are prepared for the costs of a funeral and burial and services. As Ms. Lynch said, these costs can be upwards of $20,000 if not taken care of ahead of time. Again, loved ones are not in a good place when you have just left them, and their decisions may be not in alignment with your own as far as values go.
I didn’t get into the ‘nuts and bolts’ of Ms. Lynch’s talk about estates, wills, trusts, probate, and non-probate amounts, and Power of Attorney documents here, but those were all discussed in some detail. If these subjects are not yet familiar to you, and you’d like to speak with Maria Lynch or one of her colleagues, now is the time to start planning! Their practice is located in Raleigh, and you can visit their website to learn more.