Douglas Gibson

We’re all dying, not one of us can escape it. Not one. Let’s talk about it.
I learned a lot losing mom and dad, both suddenly and unexpectedly. I learned more about the documents below than I ever wanted to know.  Feeling like a “grown-up” this weekend having completed all of them for myself. Tim has also completed them.

Several friends and family have asked what I’ve done for myself after going through the process of burying both parents, having to empty and sell their home. Well, the documents below are just a start. They’re also not near as expensive to have completed as one would think.

Important things I’ve learned and would encourage all of my friends to do ASAP:

  • Make sure all bank accounts have direct beneficiaries. The beneficiary need only go to the bank with your death certificate and an ID of their own.
  • TOD (Transfer On Death) deed if you own a home. Completing this document and filing it with your county saves your heirs THOUSANDS. This document allows you to transfer ownership of your home to your designee. All they need to do is take their ID and your death certificate to the county building and the deed is signed over. Doing this will avoid the home having to go through probate.
  • Living Will: This allows one to put in writing exactly what you want done in the event you cannot speak for yourself when it comes to healthcare decisions.
  • Durable Power of Attorney: This allows one to designate a person to make legal decisions if one is no longer competent to do so.
  • Power of Attorney for Healthcare: This document allows one to designate someone to make healthcare decisions for their person.
  • Last Will and Testament: Designates to whom personal belongings will go to.
  • Funeral Planning Declaration: This allows one to say exactly one’s wishes as far as the disposition of the body and the services.

If the above documents are done, at least in Michigan and Indiana, you can AVOID probate. If all the above is not done, you have to open an estate account at the bank. All money that doesn’t have direct beneficiaries goes into this account. You have to have an attorney to open the estate account. The attorney also has to publicize your passing in the paper etc., to allow anyone to make a claim on your property. It’s a complete PAIN.

  • Make a list of all banks and account numbers, all investment institutions with account numbers, lists of credit cards, utility accounts, etc. Leave clear instructions as to how and when these things are paid. Make sure heirs know where life insurance policies are located.
  • Make 100% sure someone knows your Apple ID, bank ID account logins and passwords! (Mom had a little binder with all of this! )
  • Make sure you have titles for all vehicles, campers, etc!
  • MOST IMPORTANTLY! Talk with those closest to you and make all your wishes known. Talk to those whom you’ve designated, as well as those close to you whom you did not designate. Do this to explain why your decisions were made and to avoid any lingering questions or hurt feelings.

We were fortunate that dad had almost everything in order. A huge blessing g to us was that he had preplanned and prepaid his funeral just a couple of days after mom died.  Sadly, he had planned on doing a TOD (Transfer of Death) deed for the house the Monday after he died. Had he been able to complete that, it would have saved thousands in attorney fees and we could have avoided having to probate the estate.

Hope this helps! Hope this lights a spark to encourage all my friends and family to take care of these things to make it easier for those we’ll leave behind!

*** I am NOT an attorney. The above is all simply lessons that I’ve learned on my own. Of course, only you can make decisions for yourself! My hope is that the above list at least helps you start an important conversation with your loved ones and an attorney that can help you complete all the necessary steps. ***