The last ten days have been very difficult for our family. A cousin with whom I was very close passed away suddenly within 48 hours. I was fortunate to be able to fly back east for the funeral and say my goodbyes in person. While it’s never fun or easy to reconnect with family because of a funeral, it was nice to see so many of my aunts and cousins make the trip and share our memories of my cousin.
There were a lot of questions about her estate and how much planning she had done since she was only 47 when she passed. Let’s face it, when you’re perfectly healthy and in the prime of your life, you don’t think about things like life insurance or beneficiaries – I know I hadn’t. It was quite eye-opening to realize how important these things are, and how much a sudden death can impact your family and their resources.
Once we were back home, I started reviewing my various finances and came to a startling realization: I had never named a beneficiary for my 401K, and I didn’t have a secondary beneficiary for the minimal life insurance policies offered through my employer. Considering I’ve been with my employer over 7 years, that’s a long time for that money to be in limbo, especially since I’ve gotten married. If, heaven forbid, something ever happened to both Mr. P² and I before my mom passes, I would want to make sure she has the ability to take care of things without being out of pocket.
Naturally, when I brought up creating a will, Mr. P² scoffed at the idea, but after seeing what my cousin’s family is going through, I don’t believe it’s such a crazy thought. While we’re not millionaires and don’t own property yet, I want to make things as easy as possible if something happens to us before what everyone thinks is “their time.” Of course, my overactive imagination goes into all the what-if scenarios, particularly since Mr. P² and I always travel on the same flights when we travel together. I’m starting to understand why some families split up on different flights – inconvenient at the time, and maybe overly cautious, but it kind of makes sense.
That being said, going forward I will highly recommend to all our family and friends that they get their affairs figured out to the best of their abilities, because you simply never know when something will happen. Here’s the checklist I’ve created for us, but feel free to modify in whatever way best fits your family’s needs:
- Check the following accounts and add a beneficiary when applicable:
- Life Insurance
- Retirement (401K, IRA, Pension, etc.)
- Non-Retirement Stocks
- Have a hard copy of the contact information for each account readily available and organized
- Make your wishes for your remains known in writing
- Increase your life insurance to whatever you can afford comfortably
- For more information about life insurance and why you should get it early in life, check out these links:
I’m sure there’s more detailed lists out there as to how best to go about planning for the hereafter, but as a 30-something, this simple list works and allows me to get a handle on our estate planning without feeling overwhelmed. While it seems silly to push someone my age or younger to think about these things, as I’ve learned in the last week, you simply never know when you’ll be called home.
All the best,