We don’t generally like to contemplate our own mortality, but it’s a gift to your kids to get your end-of-life plans in order, well in advance.
“While it can be daunting to look ahead and think about death [or illness], planning ahead is a great way to be sure you have all your family affairs in place,” Bernerdine Noronha, the innovator of My Family Recovery Plan, a digital storage system for important information and documents, told HuffPost Canada.
”It’s important to start planning sooner, rather than later so that you have peace of mind that your family’s future is secure in the event of any emergency or unexpected bereavement.”
Here are three areas Noronha suggests you focus attention on now, to take care of your family in the long term:
Upgrade your organization system
“Sometimes people forget their loved ones will need access to their passwords, email accounts, documentation and important details in the event of an emergency or death,” said Noronha. “And no one wants their grieving husband, sister, daughter, or other family member to be spending hours on the phone to your bank, pleading for access, when this can easily be avoided.”
If you are guilty of storing passwords or important financial details in weird and wacky places, it might be time to upgrade your system, so that your family knows where to find them, in case they have to maintain or cancel things like mortgage payments and bills.
Noronha created her personal storage platform, myFRP, after her husband became sick with cancer in 2011, and she realized she would need all the household information organized and accessible in one place.
If you’re not sure what to keep and what to chuck as you organize your papers, find useful tips here, in this previous HuffPost Canada story outlining expiry dates for all kinds of documents and how best to keep track of the important stuff. Find more tips and suggestions about storing end-of-life plans and important personal documents here.
Write (or update) your will
“We don’t like thinking about our own deaths and as a result, often put off dealing with our own will,” said Noronha. But the impact of delaying could be that your family is left more vulnerable in terms of the finance they receive and when they receive it, since, in the absence a will, these things are determined by rules outside your control. Noronha pointed out that it will make it easier for those you leave behind, if you “write a will that clearly states your wishes and future-proofs your family finances, for when you’re no longer around.”
The Federation of Law Societies of Canada’s website links to every province and territory, so you can find a lawyer or legal representative to work with. There are also online tools that can make the process easier and more accessible. Will-writing services like Willful, Legal Wills and others mean you can use digital tools to draft your will at low prices. You can consult the Canadian Government’s advice on will-writing here, to help you understand the basics. Professional services are recommended in more complex situations, which you can read about here.
“Family Day 2021 will be different, but you can make it notable in ways that extend long beyond the holiday.”
Even if you already have a will, you could commit to reviewing it every year on Family Day. “Make sure it reflects your current wishes and the state of your finances,” recommends the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, adding that “in some provinces and territories, getting married, living common-law or getting divorced or separated can cancel any previous wills you had made.
For more information about estate planning, check out this previous story from HuffPost Canada that breaks it down step by step for first-timers. And if you’re a new parents, this guide to estate planning, also from HuffPost Canada, is for you.
Create a family tree
Keeping a family tree on record can be one of the greatest gifts to leave your family. ”It will allow them ― and generations to come ― to learn more about their ancestors, where they came from and their family history, even if you’re no longer there to share these things yourself,” said Noronha.
There are many online platforms and tools that can be used to research and build a record of your previous generations, such as My Heritage, meWHO? and Family Tree Maker. You can upload this information into personal storage platforms, so they can be safely stored and shared with others. This way, your history never gets lost or forgotten.
When a family situation involves adoption, there are different ways to plot a family history that allow either for information gaps or both biological and adoptive family members to be included. ThoughtCo., a website for educators, suggests alternative models such as the roots and branches family tree, where birth parents and biological family members are placed in the roots position and adoptive family members in the branch position. Learn about other options and find printable templates here.
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