Whether your interest in getting your financial affairs in order is the result of being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness or learning that a neighbor unexpectedly passed away, the important thing is that you follow through and complete the process. Every married couple should have the peace of mind that comes from knowing that they have the essential information they need if anything were to happen to their spouse. The ensuing grief that accompanies the death is compounded unnecessarily when the survivor is left to guess what type of funeral service their spouse would have wanted. Additionally, the emotional trauma leaves the survivor little energy to piece together financial records in order to determine financial resources.
While standard estate planning documents (last will and testament, durable powers of attorney, trust, living will and health care power of attorney) are necessary, each spouse should also prepare a letter of instruction. This letter should include instructions on who to contact upon your death, funeral wishes, an inventory of investments, company benefits, insurance policies, debt and the location of any important documents. No matter how old you are, there is no better time than the present to make sure that your family does not have the burden of trying to uncover your wishes in their time of grief. Take the time to put your advanced directives, wills and final wishes together. Sit with your spouse and adult family members to share your thoughts on these matters and let people know where the important documents are in case of emergencies. After all, the gift of preparation is the greatest gift you can give your family in their time of need.