5 Questions you have to Answer to Create an Estate Plan for your Family

Senior couple making a will

First off, I get it.  You don’t want to create an estate plan.  You don’t want to answer these questions.  You’re young and healthy and “it’s not going to happen to you”.

You also don’t want to spend the precious little time you have with your spouse when you’re not working or raising the kids, thinking about what to do if you die or are in a coma.  Wonderful date night topic, right!?

However, you know you have to address these questions to protect your family.

You just heard about Prince dying without a will and it was another reminder that you still haven’t done this.

You’ve heard about “those kids” whose parents died.  What if that was your children?  What if you didn’t have a plan?

It doesn’t matter if you decide to hire an attorney or use an online solution to create your estate plan, you have to answer these 5 important questions either way:

Question #1

Who do we want to raise our children if something happens to us?

This is the Guardian and this is a big one.  Who would you really trust to raise your children if you weren’t here?

This one obviously deserves a lot of thought and prayer, but don’t let this question keep you from making a plan.  If you don’t make a choice, a probate court and social services will make one for you…and you certainly don’t want that!

Most people choose a sibling or best friend or parents for this important role.  You and your spouse don’t have to choose the same Guardians, but most do.

Your Guardian can manage the money you leave for your children as well.  Or you can list a separate property guardian to manage the money if you want to create a system of checks and balances.

Question #2

When I die, who gets the money?

This is the Beneficiary and this tends to be an easy one.  Most people leave the money to their spouse as the primary beneficiary and to their children as the contingent beneficiaries.  Contingent just means who gets the money if the primary isn’t alive or doesn’t want the money.

However, many people like to leave a portion to their church, parents, siblings, nieces, nephews, etc.  You can name as many beneficiaries as you want and divvy up the money however you want.

Question #3

When I die, who makes sure my wishes are followed?

This is the Executor.  Most people start with their spouse, but this might be a burden you don’t want to heap on a grieving spouse.  Also, you may want to consider a family member or friend who has some legal or financial expertise.

The Executor is in charge of tidying up the estate.  This means going to the bank to open accounts, filing the will with the probate court, locating assets, paying debts, filing a tax return, paying taxes, paying bills, and making sure the money and other items go where you want them to.

You can also list Successor Executors in case your first choice isn’t alive…or declines the job.

Question #4

If I’m incapacitated, who do I want to make financial decisions for me?

This is the (Financial) Agent.  If you’re in a coma or have a cognitive disease or whatever horrible scenario you want to concoct, and are unable to make decisions for yourself, this is the person who takes over.

The Financial Agent will pay bills, decide if investments or real estate need to be sold, file and pay taxes, and make every other day to day financial decision you would if you could.

Most people list a spouse first, but again this might be added pressure you don’t want to put on your spouse when he or she is already in a horrible situation.  You may want to consider someone with financial expertise here.  You want to list Successor Agents too.

Question #5

If I’m incapacitated, who do I want to make medical decisions?

This is the (Health Care) Agent.  This agent makes any health care or medical decisions on your behalf.

As usual, most people start with the spouse.  I have a great resource you can use to really help your spouse out, though.  You can use this Quality of Life Directive to leave specific instructions for your agent.

Think of what a relief this would be for you.  Imagine your wife lying in the hospital in a coma.  You are a complete wreck, but you’re trying to hold down the fort and raise the kids and keep things normal.  Now you have a doctor asking you questions you don’t even understand about treatments for your wife.

What if you could just hand them this Quality of Life Directive?  How much easier would it be if you knew your spouse made these decisions years ago for you?

This is the reason you complete the estate plan in general.  You want to make these decisions when you’re relaxed and a million miles away from tragedy.  You don’t want to make these decisions in the middle of the storm when your eyes are bloodshot from tears and lack of sleep.

Do yourself and your family a favor.  Set aside some time to answer these 5 questions.

Then call that attorney you know and have been avoiding or go online and get this done!  You’ll feel so much better, and like all financial planning decisions, your future self will thank you 🙂