How to Finance Death


March 12, 2008   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

Any unfinished business is a cause of ongoing stress. While it’s not the most joyful topic, any steps towards overall personal development should involve tying up all the loose strings of your life. This includes planning for your ultimate demise, and determining how your assets are to be distributed once you have left this life behind.

There are many who believe that once you’ve died the disposition of money or property is no longer of concern. Yet most of us have family members we would like to know are taken care of when we are no longer there to see to it ourselves. At the very least, the greediest person can take steps to ensure the tax man is cut out of the equation.

For these reasons, estate planning is extremely important, even if you anticipate being on Earth for many, many years to come. In order to assure all of your affairs are in order, you should go beyond writing your will to establishing a living trust should you become incapacitated in an accident or by illness. Your family needs to know what measures you want taken, and you will experience much greater peace of mind by finalizing these pesky yet highly important details.

    • Make a Will: Aside from determining who will take guardianship of your children, your will determines which assets and money are distributed among your heirs. This is your opportunity to include important people in your life as recipients of your property, it allows you to donate all or part of your estate to a charity, or it allows you to disinherit someone. Having a will ensures your hard-earned money ends up exactly where you want it, and keeps it from being spent in probate. Taking this step will also save your family from undue heartache and stress should you meet your demise sooner than you expect.

      Another option is to establish a living trust, where your assets are held in trust and managed to your benefit while you are still alive, then are transferred to designated beneficiaries upon your death. During your life, you will most likely name yourself as the trustee, in charge of managing the assets of the trust. This allows you to remain in control of your assets even though they are held in a trust. A trust will also ensure your estate remains free of probate after your death.


    • Establish a Living Will: A living will is essentially a health care directive that outlines which procedures you wish to either receive or forbid in the event you are critically injured or stricken with a disabling disease. In this document you specify which life-saving measures you wish to receive, or wish to forego. These can include the use of artificial resuscitation, the use of respirators, and the availability of food and water. With this document, you bestow the power of attorney to a proxy – normally a trusted friend or family member – who will make informed decisions for you should you become incapacitated. The decisions will be guided by the instructions provided in your living will.

      Having a living will not only ensures you are treated in exactly the manner you wish to be treated should you become unable to make your own decisions regarding medical care, but having such a document saves your family from having to make difficult decisions in an already stressful situation.


  • Specify Your Funeral Arrangements: This is another measure intended to save your family from undue stress and to provide you with peace of mind during your lifetime. You can create a separate document specifying your final wishes for funeral arrangements or include those instructions as part of your will. In either case, you will be able to ensure your body is handled in exactly the manner you wish and that it is laid to rest as you deem appropriate. Leaving these decisions to family members not only adds to their already significant grief, but leaves the possibility open that you will not receive the final arrangements you would have liked.

Thinking ahead to such matters is never an enjoyable task, but by getting things done with regard to your final arrangements, you will be providing yourself and your family with great reassurance. Part of a strong personal development program not only includes improving your life right now, but making practical decisions for the future as well.

Written by David B. Bohl, the author of of Slow Down Fast as well as The Happiness Trilogy.


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