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Benjamin Franklin’s quote that “ … nothing in this world can be said to be certain except death and taxes” is as true today as it was during Franklin’s lifetime, from 1706 to 1790.

Yes, we’re all going to die at some point, but you may find you can live your life more fully if you get everything in order. That way, you don’t over-worry or over-think about what will happen to your family when you’re no longer with them.

Prepare your will

Your last will and testament is a document that designates what happens with your property, guardianship of your children and names the executor of your estate.

This is best done with an attorney who can keep your will updated, understands state-specific tax issues and the complicated situations of real life. However, if you need only a very basic will, you can use a simple online template.

Life insurance

Life insurance can fill a variety of needs, including covering the finite years of a mortgage and protecting the interests of a special-needs child who will need financial support after you’re gone. Its main function is to protect family members from the loss of income if you or another primary wage earner dies.

For most of your adult life, you’ve probably had a life insurance policy through a benefits package at work. However, as you move closer to retirement you’ll have to decide whether to pay for a life insurance policy on your own or enter your later years without one.

If your family is still dependent upon your income, if you carry a lot of debt or are still paying off a mortgage, you might consider keeping a life insurance policy as a “better safe than sorry” approach. Maybe there is a gap between employment and your ability to begin Medicare rather than paying a hefty health insurance premium every month. In that case, life insurance might still make sense.

Organize your finances and important paperwork

Make it easy for your heirs to find exactly what they need. Two of the most important documents are your life insurance policy (especially policies from former employers) and your retirement plans (including pensions and annuities) because both are easy to overlook.

What happens if you become ill or incapacitated?

These are tough issues for a family, yet you can face them unafraid if you have a living will, power of attorney and durable power of attorney.

The difference between a will, which distributes a person’s property after death, is that a living will explains what kind of medical care a person wants while he or she is still alive, but is unable to explain his or her wishes.

A power of attorney is the person who can attend to financial or legal matters if you become ill or are unable to handle them for yourself. The power of attorney expires after your death, and the control of your finances typically shifts to the executor you named in your will.

Planning your funeral

There are many ways you can think ahead about your funeral, starting with a life insurance policy that will at least pay for funeral expenses.

By thinking ahead, you can make informed and thoughtful decisions about funeral arrangements, sparing your survivors the stress of making these decisions under pressure and strong emotions.

You can make decisions about your arrangements in advance, but not pay for them in advance, or you can pre-pay for your funeral. Put your preferences in writing, give copies to family members and your attorney and keep a copy in a handy place.

Don’t designate your preferences in a will, because a will is often not read until after the funeral. Don’t put your only copy in a safe deposit box, in case your family has to make arrangements on a weekend or holiday.

Sources: Nolo.com, Legalzoom.com, Investopedia.com

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