TimeWise is pleased to be an Affiliate Member of the Hampton Roads Realtor® Association. This article can also be found in the HR Realtor® November Magazine.
If I had a dime for every time someone told me they “meant to get to it” when it comes to getting their affairs in order, well…let’s just say I wouldn’t be here writing this article…you’d probably find me sipping pina coladas on the beach. But here we are, so let’s talk about it…
What type of person are you? The bury your head in the sand, or dive in head-first type? Or somewhere in between? Most of us are probably somewhere in between, but for those who bury their head, I urge you to poke your head out and get moving on one of the most important tasks you’ll do in your lifetime.
I am obsessed lately with sharing my thoughts on making it a priority to get your affairs in order…no matter if you’re 35 or 85. One would assume my obsession comes from the type of work I do – I see so many families struggling to handle the daunting details after their spouse or parents pass away.
I’ve also got to give props to my dad.
In 2012, my mom passed away at the young age of 68. Although she wasn’t in the best of health, it was rather unexpected. After spending 10 days in ICU going through many ups & downs, she decided it was time for her to cruise the big blue skies. I’ll never forget the moments following. We were in shock and the nurse came over and handed us a piece of paper with funeral homes listed and asked us to let them know where we’d like her to go. We had no idea – we had never talked about it.
From that day forward, we talked about “it”. My dad was constantly talking about his wishes, pre-planning his own funeral, making sure he updated his estate planning documents, power of attorney, etc.
Fast forward to 2016, my dad was diagnosed with Esophageal Cancer. I went to Las Vegas to be there for his first Oncology appointment where they told him he could expect to have 12 months. When we got home that afternoon, he was sitting at the kitchen table and looked up at me and said, “you need to get used to me not being around” and told me to have a seat so he could give me account #’s, log-ins, and passwords. I knew we had some time, but it would make him feel better, so I sat down. It’s a good thing I did because we really didn’t have time. Five short weeks later my dad went to be with my mom.
While it was emotionally and physically difficult to clean out our family home, and handle my father’s affairs, it was a lot easier since he had everything in order and he had shared all the information I would need to know. I will be forever grateful as it was the best gift he could have given me. I’ve heard countless horror stories from friends and clients who had to rummage through tons of files trying to locate account numbers and/or insurance policies, were locked out of computers and online accounts, among other things.
It’s been five years now and thanks to my dad, my husband and I have worked hard to make sure we have everything in-order for our adult sons. Every now and again I ask them what they would do if I got hit by a truck one day. I get the eye roll and shoulder shrug, and quickly remind them…you get THE BINDER. The Binder has everything they need to know, who they need to call, what our wishes are, all in one place.
According to Cambridge Dictionary, to get or have your ducks in a row means “To be well prepared or well organized for something that is going to happen.”
It may not be a comfortable topic, but it’s an important one. If something were to happen to you tomorrow, would your family know what accounts you have, and how to access them? What about your final wishes, do your loved ones know what you want? When’s the last time you reviewed the beneficiaries on your accounts? There’s a good chance you’ve had some life changes over the years.
Getting your ducks in a row is not just about end-of-life planning either; having your affairs in-order for disaster preparedness can not only help you recover more easily in the event of a disaster, but it can provide you and your family with peace of mind now.
What exactly does it mean to get your affairs in-order to be well prepared? While you’ll want to consult with Professional Advisors such as an Estate Planning Attorney, Financial Advisor, or Funeral Director, it could mean having any, or all, of the following:
- Advance Directive
- Durable Health Care Power of Attorney
- Durable Financial Power of Attorney
- Funeral Pre-Planning
- Personal Property Inventory
- Digital Inventory (inventory of your digital assets to include log ins/passwords)
- Organize Critical Documents – titles, birth certificate, marriage & divorce certificates, insurance policies, passports, military documents
Oftentimes I come across adult children who are frustrated because their parents won’t talk about “it”. I encourage you to visit TheConversationProject.org; It’s a wonderful website that provides many tools to help get the conversation started.
**Since the article was published, I’ve learned about another incredible resource. Honoring Choices Virginia offers educational resources, free tools, conversation guides, and training for Advance Care Planning. I’m super excited I will be training in December to become an ACP Advocate!