It can’t be said too many times…do your estate planning

I’ve posted this before but it really can’t be said enough. Get your affairs in order. EMPs are a possibility, but death is a certainty and unlikely, sudden, too young, too healthy, “But he worked out every day!”, “But I always thought I would go first!” deaths happen all the time. We just had one in our family.

Lots of good articles out there, I’m linking to one below. I would say the very FIRST thing everyone should do is check the beneficiaries on your accounts. Any bank account, retirement account, HSA, anything should have the person you intend listed as a death beneficiary and then have alternates. That way the assets go directly to your beneficiary on your death instead of going through probate – they have access to the funds right away. This is easy to do and doesn’t cost anything. After that you can get into your will, power of attorney, medical power of attorney, life insurance etc. 

Finally, talk to your family. Make sure someone trusted knows what accounts you have, where to find your will, what your intentions are. possibly even share passwords with them if you trust them. If not, consider subscribing to a password manager service that can allow someone to have emergency access in the event of your death (e.g. LastPass).

Honestly, don’t spend another dime on ammo or #10 cans until you have dealt with this. It causes so much pain, stress, and heartbreak on top of an already heartbreaking situation when someone dies unprepared.

Sample article here – and there are lots more out there. https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/investing/estate-planning 


  • Comments (9)

    • 6

      I am sorry for the loss of your family member. In the event of my death, loved ones who don’t live with me will need to use the contents of a “go bag” for documents, etc. I recently carried it over to show them so they’d know exactly what to look for and where to find it. I also explained my system for keeping track of passwords

    • 5

      An experience that will drive home the importance of estate planning is dealing with the estate of deceased parents.  Fortunately, my parents were fairly well organized, paperwork wise, and I had the full support of my sibling, who did not interfere with my decisions. Even so, it was a crushingly emotional and difficult experience.

      In our case, we have no heirs, and though it may seem trivial to some, we have animals that would have fallen into the auction/abandonment abyss if we suddenly couldn’t care for them. 

      We were lucky to find in the Oregon Humane Society, a highly efficient charitable organization that is fully equipped to not only swoop in and protect our animals, but to manage all the details of our estate (to their benefit of course).  They regularly lavish their appreciation on us, cajole us gently to tie up loose ends and stay in touch to help us keep everything up to date.

      And there are always so many loose ends. 

      We’ve now watched several friends and neighbors struggle through the disorganized estates of departed parents and it causes a profound amount of stress, strife among siblings, time lost from work to travel and deal with real estate, etc.

      Being prepared for emergencies generally makes us feel good.  Estate planning is the end game preparation.  And it does feel good to be ready for the inevitable.

    • 5

      I agree 1,000%

      My FIL died 18 months ago in NYC. My MIL has advanced dementia and psychosis.

      My wife had to have a doctor examine her and she is in a long term care facility for similar patients. She is legally incompetent.

      My FIL left my wife the combination to his safe and $4,000 cash but she could not settle their bills because all their accounts were joint; FIL/MIL. She had to go to court to be named Guardian – and that took 16 months. 

      Our NY attorney that advised us told my wife that he sees this regularly and it’s very avoidable.  All my in-laws had to do was name my wife (an only child) as joint on all their accounts and she could have settled everything  with easy access to the funds.

      He also said that if the parents are suspicious in the least about their child’s intentions (or being advised to be – much more common) all they have to do is not tell the child. The attorney said my FIL could have left a letter in his safe saying ‘in the event I pre-decease my wife, call lawyer XYZ for instructions. That lawyer would have said ‘ you’re joint on the following accounts’.

      My FIL was an exceptionally organized man – he had 60 years of bills cataloged in boxes?!@# but he could not face the prospect of his own death – and did not plan.

      All of the hundreds of phone calls, emails, letters, affidavits and Zoom calls with NY Superior court could have been avoided with 5 minutes planning.

      We will not leave a similar mess to our kids.

      • 3

        I am so sorry for the loss of your dad, and that you had to go through all of that on top of it all! 

    • 5

      This is so timely in our lives right now. We don’t have a will or any formal planning. Why? I have no idea. Negligence? Laziness? Apathy? Belief in immortality? (Ok some of that – lol)

      We were just discussing it this weekend and have fast tracked it to the top of our To-Do lists. Thanks for this reminder and that good checklist. 

      • 3

        Hi Trace, glad this inspired you! How are you doing with it?

    • 3

      Thanks July, for spotlighting this! My MIL just passed, after years of decline, both physically and mentally. FIL passed 6 years ago, and thankfully (due to MIL’s diligence) had life insurance. She was down to her last month’s worth of those funds, which we had carefully managed, when she passed. 

      All that to say, she planned nearly every detail of her funeral years in advance, right down to her funeral services and outfit with a prosthetic boob for her mastectomy! We joked about these things while she was alive, but how very helpful it all was when she passed. The years of managing her care and numerous moves as her condition declined were a lot of work and stress, so the detailed plan of her wishes was a real balm in the end, and minimized sibling drama. 

      I can only encourage fellow preppers to at least do some basic steps as outlined in your excellent post. A lawyer friend once told me only about 3% (!!) of people put estate planning into place. We as preppers need to do better than that! Our loved ones will be thankful we did. 

    • 3

      I’m so sorry for your family’s loss. Thank you for this reminder. 

      I can’t second this enough: my BIL died two and a half years ago at age 30. He had no estate plan given his age. Who thinks their estate will be difficult if they don’t have much?

      Probate just finished and the state/lawyers got much of whatever. It was very difficult to help my parents-in-law with this while the family was in a state of shock and I was pregnant. 

      And please, for the love of all that is good, leave the master password for your password manager (or etc.) with a lawyer or spouse so that loved ones can access your digital life. It’s not easy or always possible to get into password protected computers or phones. My BIL had a “plan” on his computer – which we couldn’t access. I leave written and digital files (encrypted) in the event I pass on my computer (to which my husband and mother have the password). If you don’t feel comfortable doing so now, leave the password(s) with a lawyer. 

    • 2

      If you have disabled dependents, you’d better set up a third party irrevocable special needs trust which will hold all the specified assets to be used to benefit the dependent without interfering with their getting SSI and Medicaid benefits. An ABLE account is problematic. It can hold their own money without interfering with government benefits, also money given to it, but when the account holder dies, it will be used to pay Medicaid etc. back first, probably the government would get all of it. It is also only supposed to be used to pay expenses directly related to the disability. The third party special needs trust can be left to any specified heirs at the disabled persons death and can be spent in any way which benefits him. You have to designate successor trustees and hope they will act responsibly. There’s really no fail-safe way to do it that I’m aware of. I put a spillover clause into my will so that any property overlooked will be added to the trust fund. Taxed extremely heavily once it comes into effect at my death. I bought a Nolo book on Amazon and copied its sample trust, making relevant changes, and got it approved by and notarized at my bank. It’s an extremely thorough form which specifies at least once per paragraph that nothing applies if it might interfere with government benefits. And if the person recovers, then the trust can be ended by a court. 

      Very important to do, our society is not doing anything to educate, employ, or appropriately house the autistic. People will say Voc Rehab, etc, but unfortunately VR is doing nothing, nor anyone else. SSI openly says that it’s goal for the disabled is indigence.