A place for random thoughts from the life of a follower of Jesus.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Planning for Death

Well, there's a catching title! We all have death on our minds everyday, right?
I guess that's part of the problem. We don't often think about dying, though it is a reality for us all. And since we don't think about dying, we don't plan for what will happen in the event of our death. Let me tell you that this is very important for all of us. Now, let me make a disclaimer here: I am not a lawyer, nor do I pretend to be one. I write only from my own experience, and want to share with you what I have learned.
We will all die sooner or later and for the well-being of our families we need to take time to have our things in order. To do that, there are several items that need to be addressed.
1. Your will. Everyone needs a will, drawn up and signed by a lawyer. It will cost you a few hundred dollars, but it's worth every penny. Wills are not just for the elderly. We all will die, and have no guarantee of when that will happen, so we must be prepared. Your will needs to address what happens to your money, stuff and debts after you die. Will everything go to your spouse, if you are married? Who will care for your children if they are still underage? How will your assets be divided? This is where many family disputes arise. If you want certain things to go to certain individuals, specify that exactly in writing. Most parents want to be fair in the division of their assets among their children. The trouble is, what is fair? You might divide cash between some, and the house among other children, but things can drastically change between when you make that decision and when your will is put into effect. In your will you also need to appoint executors. These individuals are given the task of carrying out your wishes and ensuring that your assets and heirs are dealt with properly. Think carefully about whom you appoint to this position: will they work well together? Are they likely to be alive to do the job? Can you trust them? Will the family respect their decisions? If there are expected issues (disagreements, etc) it might be advisable to appoint someone who is not part of the family and has no connections. It will cost your estate, but some people appoint their lawyer as executor, since they are a neutral party (unless your lawyer is your brother!).
2. You also need to name someone as power of attorney. They are empowered to take control of your finances should you become incapacitated and no longer able to look after yourself. Again, this should be someone who you can trust with your money, as they will be given access to all of it! They will be authorized to make decisions on your behalf. Having this in place is very important. If you do not appoint a power of attorney, the government will appoint someone for you, and can make the whole situation very difficult.
3. Everyone also needs to appoint someone as power of attorney for personal care. Should you become incapacitated, this person will make decisions regarding your medical care, housing, etc. Along with this is a living will. This sets out in writing what your wishes are regarding health care, organ donation, etc.

Well, I'm certain there's more that could be covered here. I'll direct you to some resources that may be helpful to you. The following websites and resources have been very informative for me:
http://www.familyfight.com/ Two lawyers have written a book entitled The Family Fight: Planning to Avoid It. I would highly recommend this book as mandatory reading when planning your estate.
http://www.canadianbusiness.com/my_money/planning/estate/article.jsp?content=20031111_112340_4356 This may help you to track down other resources as well.
http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/family/pgt/livingwillqa.pdf This is a government document dealing with power of attorney and living wills.

Before I end, I must also say that planning for death is not limited to our assets. The Bible says that after death we will stand before God for judgment. Jesus is described as our advocate (or lawyer). Why wouldn't you want the best lawyer you can have? It all begins by surrendering your life now to Christ and then following Him daily. He will make a huge difference in your life if you let Him.

Be blessed!

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Anonymous Ross said...

Hi Dave, another important aspect of planning for death would be planning for burial. Prearrangements help family members who have to make decisions when emotions are high. That is an easy time to overspend. A person has atendancy to not want to scrimp on the funeral but it is easy to spend more on a casket then many spend on buying a car. What kind of service do you want? Any specific hymns? Church or funeral home service? Many Funeral homes have kits to help with this kind of planning and some will keep your wishes on file in case you don't want to pay up front. Talking openly about these plans with those you trust also helps.

7:47 a.m.

Blogger David said...

Good comments, Ross. Preplanning shows that you have thought about the future, and have taken steps to alleviate difficulties for your family.

8:23 a.m.


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