11 Financial Decisions You Need to Make Before You Die

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Making plans for your estate now will be a gift to your family when you pass on.
Updated March 25, 2024
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No one wants to dwell on their death, but it’s a fact of life that you will die. And thinking about who will inherit your property or other belongings now will help your family later.

A will is the first step in that planning, but there are many other decisions that need to be made. If you live alone, it’s even more important that someone knows about your financial life, such as your checking account or retirement funds, as well as your wishes for your estate.

Here are a few decisions you need to make now to make sure your estate is handled properly.

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Write a will

Fabio Balbi/Adobe Last will and testament form with gavel

A will is an important legal document that can outline your wishes for your estate and property. If you die without a will, the state will divide your estate among your next of kin.

Most people would probably like to decide who will inherit their home or a family heirloom. Drawing up a will makes your wishes clear.

Talk to your inheritors

chokniti/Adobe father and son in the-garden

You’ll want to talk to people before you die about their role in your estate or what they should expect to receive. You will also want to choose someone to be the executor of your estate.

An executor works with lawyers and other officials to settle your estate, including paying your debts. Their role is also to be sure that the terms of your will are carried out.

Consider power of attorney

Robert Kneschke/Adobe seniors signing a contract

Your final years could create issues for your loved ones if you’re having memory problems or need to make end-of-life decisions.

A power of attorney can give others the power to make decisions for you when it comes to medical care or your financial decisions if you’re unable to make those choices yourself.

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Plan your final arrangements

auremar/Adobe senior lady choosing coffins

A funeral or memorial service is a good way for your friends and family to say good-bye and reflects how you want to be remembered. Making your final arrangements while you’re living will allow your family and friends to grieve instead of guessing what you would have wanted.

But funerals and memorials can cost money. You may want to make your intentions clear to your family. You may even want to consider prepaying for a funeral now. The price is locked in and you know your family will not have to bear the cost.

Identify what you have

Angelov/Adobe pie chart and candlestick charts

You should make a list of all of your financial accounts so you know what you have and can pass the list along to the executor of your estate.

You’ll want to account for savings and checking accounts as well as retirement funds, investment funds, and other forms of income or investments you may have spread across several accounts. And don’t forget any insurance policies that you may have.

Remember to include real estate holdings

Pcess609/Adobe vacant land for building construction

You know it’s important to include bank accounts and other financial vehicles where you have money such as a brokerage account or retirement account.

But it’s also important to remember your home and other real estate assets. It may not be a liquid asset like cash in a bank, but it’s still a financial holding that you need to account for when you pass away.

Account for your businesses

Oliver/Adobe female shop owner looking out

If you are the owner of a small business, you should decide what happens to your financial stake in your business and the financial issues you face as an owner.

Making a succession plan or determining if the business should be sold are important decisions for you as well as your family.

Collect your documents

Elenathewise/Adobe financial documents in folder

While your will is the starting point for your family or executor, documents that pertain to your financial life are necessary too. Do them a favor and arrange and label all of your assets.

You’ll want to include records such as bank statements, investment and retirement accounts, real estate holdings, the titles to your vehicles, and any other money-related information.

Decide how you want to store information

tashatuvango/Adobe file folder labeled as assets

There are plenty of documents your executor or those who inherit your estate will need when you die and they need access to those documents quickly.

Figure out a good way to make sure those documents are easily accessible and talk to your executor about how to access them. Be sure to make a list of usernames and passwords for online accounts, too.

As a backup, you also may want to have a binder with printed versions of the documents in case an executor can’t access them on a computer file or cloud drive after you’re gone.

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Declare your debts

tashatuvango/Adobe debts folder

You may have debts that will still need to be handled after you pass away, so it’s important to factor those into estate planning decisions.

Think about long-term debt like your mortgage, car payments, or student loans as well as short-term debt like your credit card.

Keep your records up to date

K Abrahams/peopleimages.com/Adobe writing budget plan for retirement

Your assets can change over time and you are probably keeping track of them for your own records now. The current status is important for the executor of your estate too.

Remember to review your records on a regular basis to make sure they’re up to date with the latest holdings you have. This can save time for your heirs and make it easier to settle your estate.

Bottom line

Monkey Business/Adobe financial advisor talking to couple

When you plan your estate, you are making financial decisions that will affect your loved ones when you’re gone. You spend your life preparing for your retirement, making solid financial plans, and supporting your family.

The next step is to think about what will happen to the money you saved or the property you own. The executor of your will and family and friends will be thankful you thought ahead about making decisions for your estate.

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Author Details

Jenny Cohen Jenny Cohen is a freelance writer who has covered a bit of everything, from finance to sports to her favorite TV shows. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and FoxSports.com.

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