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Seven confronting questions to ask yourself as you get older

Written and accurate as at: May 21, 2020 Current Stats & Facts

Estate planning is as much about taking care of your surviving loved ones as it is about ensuring that your final wishes are carried out properly.  Following your passing, your loved ones may not be in an appropriate emotional state to make important decisions about your affairs. Being proactive now may save them unnecessary anguish and uncertainty down the track.  Here are 7 key questions you can ask yourself when planning for the unexpected, as well as actions to take some of the burdens off your loved ones. 

1.     Who is on my team? 

If you work with financial and legal professionals, consider writing down a list of their names and contact details.  Also, look to include details of your regular doctor/s in case an emergency situation arises such as hospitalisation or serious illness.  Your loved ones will appreciate this should the unexpected occur.

 2.    Who will make decisions on my behalf when I am not able to do so?

Life is uncertain and it’s possible that at some point in your life, due to illness or an accident, you may not be able to handle your own financial affairs.  An Enduring Power of Attorney enables you to appoint a trusted attorney to oversee your financial and personal affairs – if you can’t. The person you appoint should be of the highest integrity so that you can be confident your affairs will be looked after. 

3.     Is my Will up to date?

For families with any degree of wealth, a positive legacy for loved ones is often a critical goal. A well-considered legacy plan will include a carefully prepared Will. This is a crucial document that determines whether your legacy is a truly beneficial gift, or an additional burden on your loved ones.  When constructed properly, a Will can set your loved ones up for a bright future.  It is advisable to regularly review your Will as your circumstances change so that it accurately reflects your current wishes. 

4.     What financial documents do I have, and where are they located?

Given how complicated life is today, there could be dozens of loose ends to deal with when you have passed. Having as many details as possible in one place can provide enormous assistance to your loved ones. Consider drawing up a list of your assets (bank accounts, shares, property, super) and their account numbers. If there are usernames/passwords on the accounts, you may wish to list those too.  Seek to store these important details in one place to make things easier for loved ones should the unexpected occur.

 5.    Have I planned my funeral?

Planning your own funeral or memorial service can provide peace-of-mind to you and your family.  It will also make things less difficult and complicated for your loved ones during a very emotional time.  Questions to ask include: Have you prepared specific written instructions of your final wishes/arrangements?  What type of funeral or memorial would you prefer? Do you want flowers? Would you like special music played or scripture/poems read?  Do you wish to be buried or cremated?  

6.     When and where would I consider moving from my home?

Moving into Aged Care can be a difficult subject to think about, particularly if you consider yourself to be independent or if you have a sentimental attachment to the family home.  Consider what you would do if you could no longer climb stairs or take care of a big house. Would you want in-home care? Would you prefer moving to an assisted-living facility, and if so, to anyone in particular? If you plan to stay put, is your home built for senior living and could you customise it to your needs?  Advance planning greatly reduces the likelihood of disagreements and conflict arising between family members.

7.     Have I actually spoken with my loved ones?

Finally, while getting everything down on paper is a great step forward, actually talking with your loved ones about your wishes is priceless. The clearer they are on what you want, the more likely it is that your wishes will be followed - and the fewer problems they may have when the time comes. 

Remember that this talk does not have to be grim and dire. You can also take this opportunity to speak with them about your life and memories, and even pass along cherished photographs and stories. 

Rest assured that working through the initial discomfort now will reduce the stress and burden placed on your loved ones down the track.

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