The fear of death follows from the fear of life.
A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.
~ Mark Twain ~
We plan for terminating many aspects of life but rarely do we address the most important – our final exit. We have prenuptials in anticipation of a marriage ending. Companies have exit strategies for key positions. We plan for things we may possibly want to exit but we avoid preparing for the one exit that is unavoidable – death.
When you or someone close to you is diagnosed with a terminal disease, you are forced to address that which you have avoided. If you are one who hasn’t given much thought to an exit strategy, I have some tips for you.
Get your affairs in order now before you are confronted with devastating circumstances that force you to do so. To me, this means you should answer the question, “If something were to happen to me, in what financial condition do I want to leave my family?”, and then act accordingly.
Based on what I have been through, and keeping in mind that I am not qualified to offer legal advice, here are some suggestions of things to address:
1. Evaluate your insurance. Do you have sufficient health, life, disability and long-term care insurance? Once you are sick, you are generally out of luck and cannot add coverage.
2. Determine if a trust is right for you – you don’t have to be a multi-millionaire for one to make sense in order to make the transfer of assets seamless upon death.
3. Update your will to make sure your assets and your minor children will go where you desire and review it annually.
4. Do you want to be an organ donor?
5. Do you want to be placed on a feeding tube, respirator or other life-saving/preserving equipment? Complete an Advanced Directive with your preferences noted and give a copy to your doctor and local hospital. This will save your family from agonizing over what you would want when you are unable to speak for yourself.
6. Check with your attorney to see if you should complete a Durable Power of Attorney which would give someone the right to act on your behalf should you die or become incapacitated.
7. I chose to add another individual to our bank account so should something happen to both of us, someone can immediately use our account to pay our bills and take care of our children.
In the meantime, I am an advocate for being debt-free. Come up with a short-term plan to pay off any credit card debt, student or auto loans so that the only remaining debt is your mortgage. Then come up with a plan to pay off your home mortgage or to accumulate enough available assets to cover it in as short a time period as possible. In these times of low interest, you may opt to not actually pay off the mortgage but to invest the funds instead. If you cannot pay off your mortgage or save that amount in the near term, make sure you have adequate savings or investments to provide for your family for a year or so especially if your spouse is not working outside the home.
While our financial picture isn’t perfect – we still have a mortgage, but I am working on that – I feel somewhat financially secure heading into this time of reduced income (Akhil on disability or about 60% pay). My desire is to help others plan so they could feel protected should this type of situation confront them. It is a lot easier to address these issues now before faced with a devastating diagnosis or other crisis. Don’t delay! Prepare for your final exit today so when your inevitable time comes you can rest in peace knowing that your family is financially secure.