The cause of death was influenza. For those of you following the story of my father-in-law, he spent nine weeks in the hospital due to the flu. While it is not unusual for a 90-year old to pass away, these circumstances were bizarre to experience. First the flu, then a fall, then complications with swallowing, and a myriad of everything that could go wrong, did.
Fortunately, Dad was lucid for several days during these events. While no one ever spoke about the fact he would never go home again, we kind of talked around the subject. “Hey Dad, do you still have the safe deposit box?” “Whatever happened to Grandma’s Hummels?” “Did I see a safe in the basement? Do you remember the combination?” It was a little private investigating along with ice chips and IVs. Everyone knew he was not going home except him, so it was a bit awkward.
Luckily, he had made his funeral arrangements when his wife died and most decisions around the ceremony and burial were in place. Except, don’t ever request a “duplicate of my wife’s arrangements” unless you want a pink lining in your casket. Luckily, we caught that one.
We were in no hurry to dig into the will and estate documents, but it turned out that cleaning out the house was one of the best ways to mourn. All of the kids and grandkids were together working. We were laughing at old pictures and picking out mementos.
As we came across financial statements, we quickly saw he had beneficiaries listed on everything and there would be no need to open an estate or go through probate. Another toast to Dad!
A death in the family reminds us that life is fleeting and there is no reason to delay getting your own house in order. If you do not have a trust, you should consider doing the following:
• List POD (Pay on Death) on all bank accounts and CDs
• Add a signer to your safe deposit box. It will be sealed instantly without one.
• Put TOD (Transfer on Death) on all investments. Consolidate your mutual funds and stock certificates into a brokerage account, then this will be easier.
• Add a beneficiary deed on the house title.
• Take your Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) early in the year. If you pass away without taking it, there may need to be an estate opened to accept the RMD.
• Buy a shredder and start using it. Don’t keep old, confidential papers around for someone to try and determine if it is still valid or not.
• Consider putting a family member on the car title.
• Identify any collectibles so they don’t end up in the garage sale.
• Leave a list of passwords, safe combinations, where extra keys are, etc.
For those of you who have a trust-based estate plan, make sure everything you wish to pass correctly is either titled in the name of your trust or lists the trust or individuals as beneficiary.
Then spend as much quality time with your loved ones as you can. You can create a legacy of family values just by sharing stories and time together. These will be the most precious things you leave behind.
Patricia Kummer has been a certified financial planner and a fiduciary for over 30 years and is managing director for Mariner LLC d/b/a Mariner Wealth Advisors, an SEC Registered Investment Adviser. Please visit www.marinerwealthadvisors.com for more information or refer to the Investment Adviser Public Disclosure website (www.adviserinfo.sec.gov). Securities offered through MSEC, LLC, Member FINRA & SIPC, 5700 W. 112th Suite 500, Overland Park, KS 66211.
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