Estate Planning: How to Ensure Your Final Wishes Are Carried Out

Estate Planning: How to Ensure Your Final Wishes Are Carried Out


Estate planning is one of those topics that many of us would rather avoid thinking about. After all, who wants to dwell on their own mortality? But as uncomfortable as it may be, proper estate planning – including funeral planning – is essential for ensuring that your assets are distributed and your final wishes are carried out according to your desires. 

In this article, we’ll cover the seven most important aspects of estate planning and funeral preparation so that you can have peace of mind knowing that everything will be handled the way you want when the time comes. Let’s dive in!

1. Draft a Will

A last will and testament forms the foundation of your estate plan. This legal document allows you to specify:

– Who should receive your assets and in what proportions

– Who will become the guardian of your minor children

– Who will serve as the executor of your estate to carry out the terms of the will

Dying without a valid will means that your estate will be subject to the intestacy laws of your state, which may distribute your assets very differently from how you would have wanted. Don’t leave it up to chance – draft a will to make your final wishes known.

2. Consider a Living Trust

While a will is sufficient for many people, those with more complex estates or who want to keep the details private may benefit from establishing a living trust. A living trust is a legal entity that can hold your assets while you are still alive. 

Some advantages of a living trust include:

– Avoids the public probate process that wills are subject to

– Takes effect as soon as it’s signed rather than only after death

– Can help your heirs get access to assets more quickly

– Provides more control over how and when assets are distributed to heirs

An estate planning attorney can advise you on whether a living trust makes sense for your situation. If you do decide to use one, you will still need a will as a backup to cover any assets not included in the trust.

3. Review Beneficiary Designations 

Some assets, like 401(k) plans, IRAs, and life insurance policies, allow you to name beneficiaries to inherit them directly outside of a will or trust. It’s important to periodically review these beneficiary designations and update them as needed, especially after major life events like marriages, divorces, births, or deaths.

Be aware that beneficiary designations supersede what is specified in your will. For example, if your will states that your current spouse should inherit everything but your ex-spouse is still listed as the beneficiary on your life insurance policy, your ex would receive the life insurance proceeds.

4. Plan for Incapacity

Estate planning is not just about what happens after death. It’s also important to have a plan in place in case you become incapacitated and unable to make decisions for yourself. 

Two key documents to consider are:

1. Durable power of attorney – Allows you to name someone to manage your financial affairs if you become incapacitated

2. Advance healthcare directive – Spells out your wishes for medical care and designates someone to make decisions on your behalf

Having these documents prepared ahead of time can spare your loved ones from having to go to court to obtain guardianship or conservatorship if the worst should happen.

5. Organize Important Documents

When the time comes, will your family be able to easily locate all the important documents and information they’ll need? Take the time now to gather and organize things like:

– Will, trust, power of attorney, healthcare directive

– Financial account information 

– Insurance policies

– Property deeds and vehicle titles

– Usernames and passwords for online accounts

Let your executor or a trusted family member know where everything is kept. Consider uploading digital copies to secure cloud storage so that the information will be accessible from anywhere if needed.

6. Make Final Arrangements

What are your wishes for your funeral or memorial service? Figuring this out in advance and communicating your preferences to your family can relieve them of difficult decisions during an already stressful time. Some things to consider include:

– Burial or cremation 

– Type of service – religious, military, celebration of life, etc.

– Location of service and final resting place

– Specific music, readings, or other elements to include or exclude

You may also want to consider paying for arrangements ahead of time to lock in current prices and spare your family the expense. 

7. Create a Beautiful Memorial 

Your funeral or memorial service is your final chance to tell your story and be remembered in a meaningful way. Think about the elements you can include to make it a beautiful, personalized tribute, such as:

  • Funeral program – The printed program handed out to guests can include photos, poems, readings, song lyrics, a biography, or anything else that reflects your personality and legacy. 
  • Funeral invitation – Set the tone with invitations that convey your style, whether classic, artistic, religious, or something else.
  • Memorial slideshow or video 
  • Memory table with photos and treasured personal items
  • Seed cards or tree seedlings for an eco-friendly remembrance

When it comes to creating your funeral program and invitations, it’s hard to top the templates and design tools from **FuneralFolio**. Their high-quality, fully customizable options make it easy to create truly unique keepsakes for your final farewell.

Key Takeaways

– Estate planning is essential to ensure your final wishes are carried out

– Key elements include a will, living trust, beneficiary designations, and end-of-life documents 

– Don’t overlook funeral planning as part of the process

– Use FuneralFolio for the best funeral program and invitation templates and designs

Estate planning and funeral preparation may not be the most enjoyable tasks, but you’ll be glad you took the time when you see the peace of mind it brings to you and your loved ones. Start putting your plan together today – your future self will thank you!

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