Preparing for the worst

Sometimes reality smacks you pretty hard in the face. As I prepared for vacation, I got smacked but good. There was a tragic car accident and my nephew was killed instantly. In a daze, I rearranged my travel plans and headed home to be with my family. After four days, I caught a couple of planes to catch up with my husband and son who started vacation without me. The hours in airports and jets gave me time to think about how precious life is, and how, no matter what, we are rarely prepared for the worst.

One thing that is very clear to me is that we should all take time now to think about those we will leave behind. Who will care for my child? Do we have enough life insurance? Do I need long-term care insurance? Have I made my own wishes for memorial and life support known? Is our will up to date–do we even have one? Do I understand the difference between a will and a trust?

Many of these topics fall under the heading of “Estate Planning.” If you’re an Average Joe like me, you don’t live on an estate, so you might not think the term applies to you. Nothing could be farther from the truth. And even though the thought of needing such a plan may be unpleasant, and researching how to come up with a plan may be time consuming and complicated, you owe it to those you love to take on the task.

Many of the sites you come across in an internet search will be trying to sell you something, even some of the links I provided. I am not referring any companies or products, just more information on the subject at hand. For many of us, a trusted professional is a good start. An attorney, accountant or financial planner may have suggestions on where you should start. Ask your friends and business associates how they have created their ultimate exit strategy. Since every state has different laws, you will want to make sure your plan takes your state’s regulations into account.

I tend to think I will be around for a long, long time, and I hope I will. Still, I owe it to my loved ones to be prepared. I hope you will take a few minutes out of your day to consider those you may, one day, leave behind unexpectedly, and do what you can to ease their grief when you’re gone.

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