Planning: Making the Transition Easier for Your Family

Losing a loved one is never easy. We all experience grief in different ways. Sadness, numbness, and depression are just a few of the emotions we experience. It is important not to make any major decisions too quickly, and to take time to think clearly again. Six months to one year works best for most people.

Leaving your family some direction as to what to do after you pass can make a huge difference. It relieves some of the stress they experience while handling your affairs. The cost of the funeral is crucial. Leaving direction as to your preferences will guide your family during the planning process. Further, providing guidance helps them make prudent decisions instead of emotional ones.

The best option is to prepay the funeral expenses. This way the plan is already in place, and your family doesn’t have to worry about what to do. Another way is to designate a Health Care Power of Attorney. A Health Care Power of Attorney gives the designated individual the authority to direct where your body goes. Having a trusted family member as your Health Care Power of Attorney who knows your wishes will ensure funeral planning goes smoothly.

Another way you can help your family after you’re gone is to make sure you’re organized. Organization is key to make things easier and smoother for your family upon death. Having the right legal documents in place is important, but there are many other things that need to be in place. Keeping a list of all your property, investments, account numbers, contact people, life insurance policies, and retirement accounts is one way to assist your family in knowing exactly what you left behind, and who to call. Additionally, include a list of your online accounts and their respective usernames and passwords. In today’s technological world, paper trails are rare. Your family will need to know how to access your online accounts, and keeping a list will make it much easier. Keep this along with any titles to cars or boats you may have, together in the same place. Doing so will prevent your family from having to search through your house or office to find everything you left behind.

If you are not one for organization, there is a very helpful resource available to you. Preferred Living Solutions, based in Wake Forest, NC, has something called “The Drop Dead Book.” It tells you what you need to do to stay organized for your family, and how to do it. Copies are available in my office to view, or they can be directly ordered from Preferred Living Solutions. The cost of the book is about $50. It’s an extremely helpful tool, considering organization may be critical for the family you leave behind.

Finally, at minimum it is important to have a Last Will and Testament in place. Without this document, your property won’t be distributed to whom you think it will go to, due to North Carolina’s intestate succession laws. If you want to have control over the distribution of your property, you will need at least a will, and/or a trust.

If you or your loved one needs assistance with your legal documents, or if you have questions about government assistance programs such as Medicaid or Veteran’s Benefits or other Special Needs programs, consider W.G. Alexander & Associates – we offer a unique blend of asset protection, Elder Law and estate planning. You can also attend our free seminars, learn more through our website at, or call us at (919) 256-7000.