Expect the Unexpected. Six things to do now.

Death and taxes are actually not unexpected as much as we all seek to avoid them. So it’s best to plan for both when you can.

In the category of death, if you are one of the people who say, “screw it, when I die, let others pick up the pieces”, then read no further. In fact, I invite you to not read anything I publish. Just live your selfish life while creating additional sorrow for others when you’re gone. But assuming you are at least a semi-responsible sort, it is critical that you plan ahead for the “unexpected” so that others have a road map on what to do when you pass.

I am a planner and I am proud of it. That means I plan ahead and try as best I can to take care of my family within my means. I feel that responsibility and I assume most people conceptually agree. However……. conceptual agreement and intentions mean nothing!  In life, there’s a big gap between intentions and action.

The purpose of this Struming is to close the gap between intentions and action. I am going to suggest 6 simple steps we all need to do, regardless of your means. Even those of modest means need a plan.

So here are the 6 critical things to do:

1. Create a will

Please don’t die without one. It will crush your family in cost and your assets could go to places you might not intend. This needn’t be a big magilla either. You can do this inexpensively with an attorney or even draw one up yourself using an online will. But have one! It will force you to really think through how you want your assets to be divided up. And will eliminate any after the fact vagaries about your intentions when you’re gone. 

2. Titling of assets

Is this really important if you have a will? HELL YES. In fact, if you have an IRA or 401K it is MORE important than your will. Huh? How so?

Your IRA/401K will NOT be part of your estate. What does that mean? Let me say this clearly….Your will does not impact where your retirement account funds go. It means that these monies pass directly to the beneficiary you designated when you opened the account, maybe years ago. Didn’t update the beneficiary from your ex-spouse when you divorced? Too bad, so sad. You must, must, must think this through and update beneficiaries. If you are unsure who your beneficiaries are, stop right now and find out. Call your plan at work or if you have an IRA outside work.

3. Plan for poor health

You feel great and so do your family members. All is good, right? Maybe, but maybe not. I can tell you first hand that things change in the blink of an eye, and there’s nothing you can do once they do other than cope.

What you can do is to expect the unexpected. This means life insurance, disability insurance, long term care policy and a combo of these things. These topics are boring, you avoid them, and you don’t even want to think about them, until you need to think about them. Don’t procrastinate. If you do, and then you “unexpectedly” have need, it’s too late because the door will be closed.

4. Write stuff down

Create a simple document…..”What to do if something happens”. In it you should have account/policy numbers. People to call along with phone and email addresses. You have all this stuff or you can get your hands on them. (By the way why not buy a bucket of some kind and put these documents all together)

But write them down the key info in a simple document, update it on occasion, and send it to family. If you are in charge of your family finances and are married, send it to your spouse and update it at least annually. If you are single then be sure an appropriate family member gets this document.

5. Talk to your kids about your finances.

I’ve written about this before and it’s a sensitive subject. It depends on the ages and your assessment of their fiscal responsibility. If you are single/widowed, this is a must.

6. Lastly, please have a summary sheet of all of your passwords on one place or piece of paper!

In today’s digital world, this is a must.

“Man plans, God laughs” is the expression. The idea is that fate is not in our hands and this much is true. But if Man doesn’t plan, his/her family will be doubly devastated when the unexpected happens. Nothing funny about that.

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