New Year’s Resolutions remain popular for goal setting and life renewal. Joining the gym, losing weight, spending more time we family; it is a chance to turn over new leaf. Thankfully, a resolution doesn’t have to be a year-long endeavor. It can be a “quick win;” something rapidly and economically achievable that will have a greater impact over time.
So for 2021, resolve to accomplish something within the first month of the new year. Set, and achieve that quick win. For me, estate planning is one such goal.
My brother died last year, and although he had his financial affairs in order, there were many other things left unresolved. It was painful to discuss cremation, internment, and other details when no one knew his wishes. It put an unnecessary strain on all of us so soon after his death, especially for my brother’s widow. A year on, we are still dealing with the repercussions of his lack of specificity, and I sometimes wonder if we made the right decisions.
Disposition of remains, allotment of funds, and distribution of property are all contentious issues for family members, even when the family isn’t split by separation or divorce. A special note for service members: you have to say WHO will be responsible for your remains so please designate WHAT you want to be done with your remains and WHERE you want your remains to rest. Documentation beats conversation, and legally binding documents shut down guessing games and perceived entitlements to decisions.
Service members can see their unit JAG and put the plan inside of their pre-deployment packets or soldier readiness files. There are online legal services that can walk you through the process, step by step. Finally, you can type one up and have it notarized. Of course, check with local legal assistance to make sure. Clearly state your wishes in detail. Do you want to be cremated and interned at the columbarium in Arlington national cemetery? State that. Would you like to be buried alongside a relative or spouse in a hometown cemetery? Write that down. Do you want your cousin to manage your funeral, as well as have your priceless collection of baseball cards? Put that in there. Every detail will help your family breathe a sigh of relief and give them the satisfaction of knowing they honored your last wishes appropriately.
Bottom line: a few hours of thoughtful estate planning could save your loved ones from mental anguish, and thousands of dollars in legal fees as well as precious time. A death in the family leaves tough conversations in its wake; make those conversations easier by specifying your wishes.