Although the pandemic has forced households to focus more on their financial futures, many couples report that conversations about wills, life insurance and other estate planning issues are still some of the hardest to have.
To these couples, personal finance celebrity Suze Orman has a not-so-subtle message: “If you’re okay with that, I have to share something with you, which I say with love and empathy: you are crazy.”
Why you shouldn’t avoid estate planning
Orman says estate planning shouldn’t be difficult or avoided, especially when you consider the alternative. Dying without the right documents will make life much more difficult for your loved ones.
There is also the frightening possibility that a serious illness, accident or dementia could hamper your ability to manage your finances on your own.
“You owe it to yourself and your loved ones to create a roadmap of who will look after your affairs if you are incapacitated,” Orman writes in his blog. “Right now, when you are clear as a bell and very capable, is when you are explaining exactly what this care should look like.
Estate planning, which includes naming beneficiaries for life insurance and retirement accounts, appointing a guardian for your children, and drafting a will, is not as difficult as people claim, according to the author and television personality.
Yet just under half of American adults (46%) have a will, according to the latest Gallup poll. If you die without a will, it will likely cause even more stress to your loved ones who will already mourn your loss.
Remember all the commotion after the death of pop legend Prince? In addition to the millions of fans mourning his death, the megastar passed away “intestate,” meaning he had no will.
He is not the only high profile example. Aretha Franklin, Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, and many other celebrities have also died without planning for their sizable assets.
A few documents can make all the difference
Now that the wedding bells are ringing again after more than a year of pandemic-delayed nuptials, a new report from Fidelity Investments that Orman refers to in his blog reveals trends in couples and their ability to communicate on financial matters .
Money matters involving debt, careers and estate planning are more difficult than others to discuss and the most difficult to initiate, according to the study.
Orman thinks couples overthink the problem. “What’s hard about discussing and making plans to protect each other and your loved ones? That’s all estate planning is all about,” she says.
“It’s neither difficult nor expensive to create the handful of documents you need,” says Orman.
These documents include:
A desire detailing who gets what after your death. But if you only have one will, your loved ones will likely have to go through the legal probate process.
A revocable living trust allow your family to avoid probate after your death and have someone (of your choice) take responsibility for managing your affairs if you become unable to do so during your lifetime.
A financial power of attorney appoint someone to act on your behalf to manage your finances.
A lasting power of attorney for healthcare state all your medical care wishes if you become too ill to discuss it with a doctor.
“Take a step back and think about what these four documents offer. Peace of mind,” Orman says in the blog post. “Again, how is this a difficult conversation?
Communicate like a team player
Fidelity’s advice for couples is that they should approach money management like they would a team sport.
“Discussing financial matters openly helps people feel more confident, more closely aligned and better equipped to face the future,” says Stacey Watson, senior vice president of life event planning at Fidelity. “For all couples, the best advice for money conversations is that it’s not a competition, so stick with it and keep the dialogue going.”
For some, a financial professional can help. Today, financial planning services are readily available online and at low cost.
But that too should be a team decision. This year, 47% of couples working with an advisor say they hired their financial professional together, up from 45% in 2018, according to the Fidelity study.
Planning for the future also often includes having life insurance to make sure your family is financially secure when you’re gone.
Still, just over half of U.S. adults (52%) own some form of life insurance, down 2 percentage points from last year, according to a 2021 study, conducted jointly by the LIMRA and Life Happens non-profit organizations.
So if you haven’t already, consider getting a life insurance policy. The pandemic has made the process easier. According to the Society of Actuaries, more than a third of life insurers have extended their available policies through accelerated underwriting.
This article provides information only and should not be construed as advice. It is provided without warranty of any kind.