OPINION

JUST PLAIN TALK: You'll never get out of this world alive

Buz Livingston
Buz Livingston

A month ago, I would have given our estate plan a C+. That's pretty low because roughly 60% of Americans don't even have a written will, but CFPs don't get graded on the curve. It's improved now; I'd say an A-. More on that later, but it's a misconception that a vast percentage of the population doesn't have a will; everyone has a will. If you die without a will, intestate is the legal term, then state law kicks in and covers you.

Our former, now-shredded wills were over 10 years old, which knocked us down at least half a grade. But we needed to organize more efficiently not only post-mortem but so caregivers wouldn't be in the dark if we developed cognitive impairment or dementia.

There are online tools, but I opted for an old-school remedy: a three-hole binder with documents or copies, where appropriate. Digging for a file on someone else's computer can be like the proverbial needle in a haystack. There are online sources like Everplans, www.everplans.com, which some may prefer.

We began with a legal section that included a letter of instruction. Everyone should have a cognitive impairment form that gives a trusted person the ability to discuss investments while you're living.

Next, include the primary estate planning documents: will, trust document(s), power of attorney, living will, health care directive, end of life care, and a Do Not Resuscitate form, if appropriate. The "Five Wishes Form" is valid in Florida and encapsulates several of these.

Provide a list of financial advisors along with investment and bank accounts. List any real estate owned with copies of the deeds and directions where the originals are kept. Include any mortgage and rental agreements along with a list of all insurance policies. Make a copy of your Social Security card and current health insurance cards.

If appropriate, show the burial location and designate a spiritual advisor. Don't overlook military honors. For church services, list the readings, songs, or eulogy. Some people have receptions following the service; consider that. For me, they'll have good beer and music, most definitely.

Include a copy of your marriage license, birth certificate, military discharge, and divorce documents. Let your people know where your safe deposit box is located and provide the number and key. If still employed, name your employer and any volunteer position.

Make sure any household employees are listed. Don't forget all utilities; specify which ones are auto-pay. In the information age, it's essential someone knows your passwords after you die. Password managers, like LastPass, are indispensable. List websites, email addresses, and online personas you have.

Last summer, I went to a virtual, online conference. Afterward, we "gathered" in a group Skype conversation. A colleague, Garry Good, who practices in Bloomington, Indiana, pulled his "If I Get Hit By a Bus" binder off the shelf and spurred me into doing a better job. To paraphrase Hank Sr., you'll never get out of this world alive.

You can't always get what you want, but Buz Livingston, CFP, can help you figure out what you need. For specific advice, visit livingstonfinancial.net or drop by 2050 West County Highway 30A, M1 Suite 230.