This was originally published on Monday,June 16, 2014, in the Pacific Daily News. Click here to subscribe to the PDN.
Question: I recently went to a funeral for my friend who had been ill for a while. After talking to some of her family members, I found out that she did not leave any direction for her funeral arrangement and worse, no will. Now her children are fighting over her personal belongings, property and finances. My parents are getting up in age and I do not want my family to go through what my friend is dealing with. What can I do to help my parents prepare for their passing?
Answer: My condolences on the loss of your friend, it is never easy saying goodbye to a loved one. It is even harder to see family members torn apart at a time when they should be uniting and consoling each other. Unfortunately, this happens way too often. Many of these arguments can be alleviated if the family member gets their estate in order before passing.
• Life insurance: First, do they have life insurance? If so, does their life insurance cover funeral and burial costs? If not, it is never too late to get an affordable life insurance plan or to add additional coverage to their existing plan. Sometimes life insurance can be delayed and you have to pay out of pocket for the funeral. This can be difficult, especially if you and your family are sharing costs and accurate record keeping is not kept for reimbursement.
• Funeral arrangements: This might not be easy, but sit down with your family and parents and discuss what your parents want at their funeral. This will give you some idea of how much it will cost. Do your parents want to be buried? If so, do they have burial plots? Where do they want to be buried? Maybe they may want to be cremated instead.
Having your family around and taking precise notes of their requests will help alleviate arguments later because everybody will have knowledge about what your parents want. If one of your parents is a veteran, you can try the Veterans Affairs for assistance.
• Estate planning: Most people think that only the wealthy need to have an estate plan. That is not true. Whether it is to divide a 401(k), real estate or other types of assets, an estate plan is necessary. Having an estate plan will reduce the confusion of your parents’ final wishes, give their heirs a piece of mind on who receives your property and assets, and will minimize taxes and legal expenses. If you pass without an estate plan, your loved ones may not receive your assets. The government could keep the assets and you do not get to decide how your property is divided.
These few steps could help lessen the stress that comes from losing a loved one and hopefully any arguments over what is inherited and who inherits it.
Michael Camacho is president and chief executive officer of Personal Finance Center. He has more than 20 years of experience in retail banking and at financial institutions in Guam and Hawaii. If there is a topic you’d like Michael to cover, please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and read past columns at the Money Matters blog at www.moneymattersguam.wordpress.com.