“Instead of focusing on the morbid side of planning for death, people should think about the satisfaction they will feel if they know their surviving family will be looked after and will not face a legal and financial maze after a death.”
– Jennifer Black & Janet Baccarani, Managing Alone
I just finished reading the book, Managing Alone by certified financial planners, Jennifer Black and Janet Baccarani. What a read!
Regardless of your marital situation, if you don’t yet have a will, I can pretty much guarantee that after reading this book, you’ll be paying a visit to the nearest lawyer to have one drafted up. If the word, “intestate,” (not having a will) doesn’t yet send chills down your spine, it will after reading Managing Alone. Sadly, the stat is something like 50% of people die without a will.
Why is a will so important?
Because it ensures that when you die – and you will – your wishes will be known, so that your loved ones can act accordingly on your behalf. A will provides specific direction on anything from organ donation and funeral arrangements, which I discussed in another article, If Emergency Struck , right on through to personal property distribution and financial allocation – basically who gets what. If you don’t have a will, the courts may have to make those decisions.
When it comes to who gets your Great Aunt Betty’s china cup collection, perhaps no big whoop. But when it comes to who gets your hard-earned cash, or say, the house you bought and are currently living in with a guy you are not planning on staying with, or who will raise your kids if both you and your spouse die, BIG whoop if you die intestate.
Dying without a will is very expensive, time-consuming and often leads to intense friction between family members… please don’t do that to your loved ones.
When reading Managing Alone, another fact that surprised me is the number of people who don’t bother to name beneficiaries on life insurance policies… if they even have life insurance. I also learned how important it is to have at least one joint bank account – otherwise, if the person whose name is on the account passes away, that account gets frozen immediately.
Managing Alone uses a very effective style of communicating its specific points. By sharing real life stories (with the names changed) of Canadians, the book illustrates what needs to be in place before we die, in terms of our financial affairs – and why. Some of the stories aren’t just sad, they are shocking. But the authors share them for good reason:
We get to learn from other people’s mistakes, so that we don’t make them ourselves.
One woman, for example, knew she was dying of cancer but deliberately chose not to get her financial affairs in order because she didn’t want to admit defeat to the disease. So when she passed away, her husband was left to pick up the pieces – of his heart and their estate. Denying death does not make it disappear.
The only concern I have with Managing Alone is the title – because I worry it won’t catch the eye of the millions of people who are not alone i.e. their spouse is still alive. For as helpful as this book is to widows, widowers and estate executors, an equally important readership for this book are people who are married, in common-law relationships, or about to enter into one of those relationships – or considering exiting one.
Ideally, Managing Alone should be read before the death of a spouse. It is a tremendous resource to help people prepare for the inevitable, as well as an excellent guide to have on hand after the inevitable happens.
Top Three Takeaways from Managing Alone:
1. Have A Will
2. Name Your Beneficiaries
3. If You Are Married/Common-Law, Make Sure You Have at Least One Joint Bank Account
Whether you are on your own or in a relationship – married or common-law – the more effort you put in now ensuring your financial affairs are in order, the more smoothly things will go after your death.
For further information on Managing Alone, here is the link.
Regardless of whether you have your financial affairs in order or not, you will still die – so you may as well plan for it. I can guarantee it will be much appreciated by your loved ones.