There are a lot of uncertainties about death. One of the biggies is that we just don’t know when we’re going to, well, go. All we know is that death is inevitable. And that we tend to be self-centered when talking about our impending departure from this life.
The premise of the bucket list is a great example of this.
Basically, you’re supposed to make a list of things you want to do — like visit every state in the continental United States or eat escargot in France — and then do them before you kick it. (Get it?)
How many people would put “establish a will” or “buy life insurance” on their bucket list? Sounds a little ridiculous, doesn’t it? It does, but it shouldn’t.
I know that not everyone wants to face his or her mortality, but it’s going to happen someday. Not to be morbid, but that’s why it’s not a bad idea to plan for it now. I’d like to give you an idea of some things you should put on your practical bucket list.
Do you have life insurance?
If your answer is no, then you might want to consider purchasing life insurance. Especially if there is debt involved. Just think of the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The idea behind life insurance is to give your spouse or beneficiaries the peace of mind that your unfinished financial obligations can be resolved in the event of your death. No one wants to inherit your mortgage or credit card bills. I’m sure you wouldn’t want to inherit someone else’s debt either.
My mother recently died. Although she hadn’t planned on dying for a few decades, she had enough foresight to purchase enough life insurance so that my dad could take care of unexpected funeral expenses as well as much of their debt.
If your answer is yes, then make sure you’ve updated your beneficiary designation to reflect any life changes, such as death, divorce or adoption.
Do you have a will?
If your answer is no, then maybe you don’t think you have an estate because you’re not wealthy or you don’t have anything to pass on. A will isn’t just for rich people. And it’s not meant to dictate who gets your stuff when you die, although that’s one of its primary purposes.
Here a few other things a will can do:
- You can use it to create a trust for your family
- You can use it to name your estate’s executor
- If you have children or dependents for whom you are caring, you can designate the caretaker(s)
- If you have a philanthropic interest, you can ensure that a portion of your estate goes to support it
If your answer is yes, then does your will reflect major changes in your life? Going through my mother’s papers, we found that she had a will that hadn’t been updated since 1978. Only two of her five children were included because three of them, including myself, hadn’t been born yet.
One more thing:
Did you know that your will doesn’t cover all your assets? Retirement plans and life insurance are not included in your will. If you haven’t already done so, you need to designate the beneficiaries now.
Since I am neither a financial planner, nor an expert in estate law (or any law for that matter), you might consider talking with someone who is so you can get all this sorted out before the inevitable happens.
When that’s done, you can then focus on the “fun” bucket list.