“We are all called to be good and faithful stewards of the many gifts that God has given to us. Leaving our affairs in good order is part of this stewardship, and is a gift of love to our family.”
Part of your Legacy
Planning for the end of life is an important part of living life in the Christian understanding. We are called to witness, even in death, to the new life that God gives in Christ through his death and resurrection.
We all want to leave a legacy when we’ve died. That legacy can entail various things – charitable contributions and endowments, financial provisions for family and/or friends, mementos of our love for family, friends or institutions.
But have you considered that part of the legacy you should leave behind is that of putting your affairs in good order? Lent can be a good time to take stock of your end-of-life planning and make the necessary changes and updates. Perhaps this could be your Lenten discipline for 2012!
Below are some things to include in your planning. It builds upon the information available from Savvy Senior. Put these in a secure place and tell your family and/or lawyer where this is. You can even have multiple copies filed in different places.
Planning your Funeral
An excellent planning booklet: Faithful Stewards of Your Good Gifts is available from the Episcopal Church Foundation. It gives wonderful information, for any denomination, on not only planning your funeral, but also writing a will, setting up advance medical directives, and much more. You should give a copy of your funeral instructions/wishes to your church for their files.
Contacts: Make a master list of names and phone numbers of family, close friends, clergy and church, doctors and professional advisers such as your lawyer, accountant, broker and insurance agent.
Personal documents: This could include your birth certificate, Social Security card, marriage license, military discharge papers, etc.
Passwords: Make a list of all your sites for online business and give the password for each. This should include financial institutions, expenses (utilities…), email accounts, social media accounts, online shopping sites (Amazon…).
Secured places: List all the places you keep under lock and key or protected by password, such as safety deposit boxes, safe combination, security alarms, etc. Indicate where to find the keys to things like safety deposit boxes.
Service providers: Provide contact information for regular services such as banks, utility companies (phone, TV, internet, electricity…), lawn service, etc. and be sure to include any passwords that you may have set up for online transactions.
Pets: If you have a pet, give instructions for their care.
Will: Include the original copy of your will and other estate planning documents you have made. It’s always helpful to staple your lawyer’s business card to the will. A lasting gift to your family includes not only providing for them financially, but helping them to remember the values that were important to you. One way to do this is to include a Bible verse in your will, and to remember important institutions and causes in your will.
Power of attorney: This names someone you trust to handle money matters if you’re incapacitated.
Advance directives: These documents — a living will and medical power of attorney — spell out your wishes regarding your end-of-life medical treatment when you can no longer make decisions for yourself. This would also include your wishes for organ or body donation.
Income and debt: Make a list of all income sources such as pensions, Social Security, IRAs, 401(k)s, interest, investments, etc. And do the same for any debt you may have — mortgage, credit cards, medical bills, car payment.
Financial accounts: List all bank and brokerage accounts (checking, savings, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, IRAs, etc.) and their contact information. This should include any passwords or other information for online transactions. Keep current statements from each institution in your files.
Company benefits: List any retirement plans, pensions or benefits from your current or former employer including the contact information of the benefits administrator.
Insurance: List the insurance policies you have (life, long-term care, home, auto, Medicare, Medigap, prescription drug, etc.) including the policy numbers, insurance agents and phone numbers.
Credit cards: List all credit and charge cards, including the card numbers and contact information. If you access these online (for payments, etc) include the passwords.
Property: List real estate, vehicles and other properties you own, rent or lease, and include documents such as deeds, titles, and loan or lease agreements.
Taxes: Keep copies of tax returns for seven years and the contact information of your tax preparer.
We are all called to be good and faithful stewards of the many gifts that God has given to us. Leaving our affairs in good order is part of this stewardship, and is a gift of love to our family.
Carolyn Moomaw Chilton writes and blogs as a spiritual discipline and an invitation to conversation with others. She is currently on staff at Grace and Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia as the Assistant for Evangelism and Stewardship.
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