Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A year-end goal: Get a will

It's "open enrollment" time for my employer's benefit plan. While making the selections for my family, I discovered a nice benefit I didn't know I had: As a participant in my provider's life insurance plan, I have access to a free service that will create basic estate planning documents, such as a simple will and healthcare power of attorney.

M has been after me for some time to have our will drawn up. I like to climb mountains occasionally as a hobby, and it makes her nervous. I point out that statistically a greater percentage of people die on the nation's highways than climbing up the likes of California's Mount Whitney or Granite Peak in Montana. But that gives her little solace since I have a two-hour roundtrip daily commute that includes the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

"Get a will" was going to be one of my New Year's resolutions for 2007. But since this service looks like it could be a pretty easy task, I'm going to try and get it done in 2006. I'll write a post on the whole experience a little later.

A handy checklist
Related to estate planning, I came across a handy tool on SaveAndInvest.org, a personal finance website for military personnel. The Family Financial Checklist puts on one page all the major financial areas you need to consider (e.g., Where does the mortgage payment get mailed to? How much is our life insurance?, etc.) in preparing your spouse and family financially for the time you may no longer be able to take care of them.

The list is very broad and basic, and doesn't provide explanations for terms it uses, such as a living will. However, it can serve as a good starting point for a heart-to-heart discussion with your spouse or family about a difficult topic. Plus, as you gather and document the information, you can check off each item upon completion (something I personally find very satisfying).

Having just celebrated M's and my third wedding anniversary, I'm about two years late in completing this extremely important aspect of family financial planning. But hopefully before New Year's Day, 2007, I'll be able to check it off.

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