I just spoke with him yesterday. How is this possible? Did he tell you what he wanted to do for a funeral? Does he even have any family? Is there a will? Who is in charge of this? Where do we even start?
These questions and others like them happen all across our country every day as friends and family face the death of a loved one. Whether the loss of someone close to you is expected, imminent, or sudden, the reality of what happens in the aftermath of a death is certain. The more prepared a person is in gathering their documents and putting their affairs in order now can make the difference between a peaceful and a chaotic experience during a very difficult time for the people closest to them.
Did you know that 68% of people who die in America do not have a Last Will and Testament? 41% of Americans have never discussed estate planning with anyone. 52% of adult children do not know their parent’s wishes upon death or where their documents are stored.
With probate expenses taking an average of 10% of a person’s assets and extending the estate transfer process up to two years, not having your affairs in order can wreak havoc on a family. And while, 52% of Americans over the age of 55 say that dying without an end-of-life plan would be “irresponsible,” 22% say it would be “inconsiderate,” and 14% say it would be “ignorant, ” 35% of adults say they or someone they know has experienced major family conflicts because no estate planning was done.
So, What Is Probate?
Probate is a legal term that simply defines a court case that decides the deceased person’s wishes by verifying an existing valid will. This process determines the legal beneficiaries and the value of any assets in the estate. Probate court will fulfill any financial obligations the deceased person left behind such as loans, mortgages, medical bills, or other personal obligations. The last step in the probate process is to divide and transfer the property to heirs and beneficiaries.
If an executor has been named and a Will exists, that person is responsible for managing the probate process. A personal estate lawyer can provide great aid in streamlining the process of fulfilling a Will.
If no Will exists, which is a circumstance often referred to as dying intestate, the court appoints one, and the process is managed under the supervision of the court. Once the court orders an executor, control of the estate is in the hands of the court, and decisions about what is best for the family or guesses at what the deceased intended are no longer probable. A court-ordered probate process can last between 6 months and two years depending on the complexity of the state and cooperation on the beneficiaries. This is where things can get ugly, and many families find themselves embroiled in battles they didn’t know were possible.
How a Green Box can help.
A Green Box is an easy, practical solution to the daunting task of estate planning. The term Green Box originally meant transferring assets from a taxable ‘red’ status to a nontaxable entity that was ‘green’ and living. Nowadays a Green Box is a term that describes a safe storage place that contains all of your important documentation that communicates your intent for your remains and assets. Your storage place does not have to be a literal Green Box but it should be a safe locked storage container that is large enough to hold all of your documents and accessible to your loved ones. Make sure that someone close to you knows where the Green Box is located and has a key.
Mike Dietz, owner of MIB Health Insurance says, “A Green Box is a gift to your family. It is a place to gather all your important documents, intentions, and communication with your loved ones in the case of your death. It may be one of the most important things you ever do for them.”
So have fun creating your Green Box. Think of this as a gift from you to your loved ones–make it personal. Make it the best gift you have ever given them! Find a literal green box if you like, decorate it, or wrap it in a bow! Whatever container you choose, filling a Green Box is not difficult, but it does take time and intent. MIB Health Insurance has compiled a detailed Green Box Checklist Guide that may help you in this process. Your Will and Power of Attorney provide the legal documentation but think of the rest of the contents of your Green Box as a more personal communication to your loved ones in your own words. It may include things like:
- Personal letters to the people closest to you.
- Copies of important personal information like passports, driver’s licenses, and marriage certificates.
- List of advisors, people you would want to be notified of your death, and those who have access to your house.
- Financial, Insurance, and account records including bills and passwords.
- Assets and any liabilities and payments you may owe.
- Burial and funeral instruction
Don’t be like the 63% of Americans who do not have an estate plan because they just have not gotten around to it. Take the time now to create a Green Box that will make the process of fulfilling your wishes upon death easier on loved ones later. Consider starting your Green Box now. Many people take one hour a day for thirty days to compile the contents of their Green Box. Others set aside a week to concentrate on it and complete it quickly. Whatever works best for you, commit to gathering your documents and preparing to the best of your ability to ensure your loved ones understand your wishes and have the tools and information they need to work through the days following your death with peace of mind.
Preparing your estate and financial affairs in preparation for death is not an easy topic to discuss. Having those difficult discussions now can save your family and loved ones countless hours of strife later. The experts at MIB Health Insurance can help you navigate these difficult discussions now and help you find peace of mind as you prepare your documents and Green Box contents. They are here to help no matter your age or phase of the health insurance journey you are on.
MIB Health Insurance is a family-owned health insurance brokerage with a team of caring health insurance professionals in the Fox Cities who want to understand your unique health insurance story. Together you can find the right health insurance solutions for you and your family. The Health Insurance experts at MIB are committed to providing peace of mind to help you understand your health insurance choices. Call a MIB Health Insurance expert at 920-731-2100 to request our free Green Box Checklist.
(Sources: Cambridge Trust, Wealth Counsel, Merrill, and Caring.com)