My Documents
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Picture this!  You are in the hospital fighting for your life after a devastating vehicle accident.  Your family is watching through the window hoping that you will make it.  You are severely injured and your mind is racing.  Doctors work on you as you go in and out of consciousness.  You feel yourself slipping away and the doctors begin Pulmonary Resuscitation.  Your world starts closing in on you and you see your entire life before your eyes.  Last thoughts, how will they manage without me?  Doctors fail and you pass away.

It’s scary just thinking about this scenario isn’t it?  But the truth of the matter is that this could be any of our reality today, tomorrow or next year.  The question is how we make sure we have prepared our families for this.  How will they manage after we are gone?  These are the questions that need to be answered right now.  Here are 5 documents that you need right now to prepare your family for the inevitable.

1.      Advance Directive.  If you become unable to make medical decisions on your own then an Advance Directive will give the doctors guidance.  This is especially essential if you would not want to be resuscitated under certain conditions.   If your spouse is the only one that knows your wishes; what appears as their decision could cause pain, disappointment and conflict within your family.  You can keep the family from having any animosity towards your spouse by having a DNR done as a part of your advanced directive.   When emotions are running high this can take the burden off of the family and allow your desires to be carried out. 

2.       A Will.  Families are sometimes torn apart by conflicts over their loved ones assets.  You can avoid the majority of this by having a will.  This legal document is prepared to inform your heirs and the court of how you would like your assets distributed.  This is one of the most important documents that you can have.  It also allows you to name guardians for your children.  Think very carefully when deciding on an Executor of your will.  This is the person that will have control to carry out the conditions of your will.  Be sure this is someone that you can trust.  Also keep in mind that a will won’t override beneficiaries to any insurance policies, investments or bank accounts.  Please keep all of this information up to date.  Make changes as needed.

3.      Revocable Living Trust.  Want something better than a will?  A revocable living trust can still give you some control even after passing.  It can be substituted for a will and the primary advantage is that this trust does not have to go through probate.  It allows your assets to be passed directly on to your heirs.  With this arrangement you pass your assets on to your family throughout your lifetime.  This document can be changed as long as you are alive and you can disinherit anyone who attempts to challenge it.  The best thing to do is to have both a will and a revocable living trust as this will cover just about all potential issues.

4.      Letter of Instruction.  This document has no legal authority, but it does let your family know some of your final wishes and pertinent information.  This document should tell your family how you would like to be taken care of i.e. cremation or burial.  You can give information on the location of any additional documents including your will, trust, bank account information, life insurance policies, etc.  This letter can also contain any final words.  This will help the family carry out any last requests that you have.

5.      Life Insurance Policy.  According to the research group LIMRA, about a third of households in the United States are without life insurance.  If you are young and married with children this is a must.  Depending on your health; this insurance is very inexpensive.  For the average 25 year old, non- smoker in good health; a $250 thousand policy costs $20 per month.   Look for a term policy which is a policy that lasts for a certain number of years and is paid out only upon your death.  Also make sure that your children are a rider on your policy with at least 5 to 10 thousand dollars of coverage.  Many households have been financially ruined when an unexpected death of a child occurs.  Not only does the family have to deal with the grief of losing a child, but also the stress of finding money to pay for the burial and any additional medical cost they may have incurred.  No family should be without life insurance. As a guideline you should have at least 6 to 10 times the main breadwinners pay in life insurance.  If you cannot afford that; get a policy for as much as you can afford. 

None of us know what tomorrow will bring.  We owe it to our families to be prepared so that they are not left out in the cold.  Sadly, there are many Americans that die without having any of these items in place and it leaves an added hardship for their survivors.  Be proactive and prepare these important documents today.  Your family deserves it.