By: Martin M. Shenkman, CPA, MBA, JD
Tough Topics Can’t be Ignored: Funeral and Burial Issue
Money Matters Radio – Estate Planning Checklist
Introduction/Overview: Most folks find it depressing and tough to talk about issues concerning their final days and burial or related arrangements. But while it is tough for you, consider the tremendous emotional burden you’re leaving your heirs if you don’t address these issues. There are far to many family fights over these issues. A bit of strength on your part to deal with these issues now can save much pain later.
Consider the following items?
√ Religious Issues: You must specifically address religious issues. Whether you have a particular set of beliefs, or not, you need to confirm what your wishes are. Never assume that your family or loved ones know. Religious issues can be incredibly sensitive and there is tremendous variation in observances, differing customs, and personal wishes. Don’t leave it to chance, or worse for your heirs to fight about. Specify what religion you were raised in if any, what religion you presently observe, how that should be applied to end of life and burial or related decisions, and what specific differences or variations you wish.
√ Burial or Interment: Where should you be buried, or interred? If you have had multiple marriages and perhaps children with several spouses, indicating what you do and don’t want can prevent an impossible fight after you pass away.
√ Living Will: State in a living will what wishes you have for religious matters, funeral, last rights, etc. This document confirms a statement of your wishes.
√ Letter of Instruction: Consider writing a personal letter of instruction with all the personal details of your wishes. Too often the smaller details of what you want are inappropriate to include in a legal document. The explanations of what you hope for survivors, why you want certain requests met, etc. all should be in a personal letter and rarely in a legal document.
√ Health Care Proxy: This is also called a medical power of attorney. You need to designate an agent to implement end of life decisions if you cannot make them on your own.
√ Will: A will is almost always found after death so that it is not the primary document people will be able to refer to in order to ascertain your wishes. So why list anything? Because indicating in your will what you want done will authorize your executor to pay for the costs of it.
√ Organ Donations: Address these in a donor card and in your living will.
√ Donating your Body To Science: If you wish to help medical research you can donate your body to science. This process requires some advance planning and documentation. Try speaking with the institution you plan to donate to and get their advice in advance.
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