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A sudden death is the harshest form of separation. Like a divorce, you need to make the best decisions in a short amount of time, under stress and with what information you can get easily and quickly. Even if a death is ‘planned’, making decisions and taking needed action will still be hard.

Are you newly single? Estate planning, Power of Attorney and a Living Will should be on your list of priorities.

It is Shift’s sincere wish to help smooth your path with our sympathetic community of Specialty Sponsors.

Things to do While You’re Both Still Alive and Functional

Checkbox1. Drawing up a will and estate plan is a must for any age, with any amount of assets.  Make it legal and keep it updated.

Checkbox2. Share addresses and phone numbers of close friends and family you wish to have contacted in the case of an illness or death. You may even have a few you wish to NOT have notified, it’s your choice.

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3. Keep and tell your Executor where to find updated lists of usernames and passwords, or leave this information with your attorney.

Checkbox4. Have a fireproof file specific for important documents: Will, birth certificates, social security cards and official statements, marriage certificates, insurance policies, property and vehicle titles and registrations, all banking and investment account information, tax returns, military documents and benefits.

Checkbox5. Know and record your debts and income sources so there are no surprises.

Checkbox6. Discuss organ donation, an awesome way for a life to continue! If death occurs in a hospital, they will take care of everything. If death is imminent and the donor wishes to pass at home, notify your local procurement organization for proper procedure.

Checkbox7. Plan and pre-pay funeral arrangements if possible. Have fun and write your own obituary!

Checkbox8. Get a Living Will and Advanced Directive to provide grateful guidance for your survivors and make sure your wishes for medical and emotional care are known.

Checkbox9. A Durable Power of Attorney and Medical Power of Attorney eliminates delay in making important decisions.

Checkbox10. A roll of masking tape and a black marker can save your family a lot of time and angst. It can be a huge help to mark your belongings (that are not listed in the will) with a name on a piece of tape. This way who know who takes which tchotchke’s home.

After a Spouse’s Death, Sudden or Awaited.

Checkbox1. Follow the organ donation plan for the timing of the death.

Checkbox2. Contact the funeral home you were so efficient to have pre-planned or picked, they will guide you as promised!

Checkbox3. Get no less than 15 copies of the death certificate and keep them handy over the next few months. You’ll need them for Social Security, Medicare, medical and life insurance companies, retirement benefits and the IRS to start.

Checkbox4. Call in your closest friends or family to contact everyone else on your behalf.  If someone offers help, take it!

Checkbox5. Contact your attorney, financial consultant and bank to keep your money flowing.

Checkbox6. Call in the executor if it’s not you.

Checkbox7. Seek Grief Counseling, be proactive for your future.

DID YOU KNOW? If you were once married to the same person for 10 years or more, you may be eligible for Social Security survivor benefits? Check your Divorce Decree!

I’m Single, What Do I Do?

Many of us are alone and have special considerations. Assigning the task of clearing your estate to a family member or good friend may be difficult to address, but the effort of pre-arranging your Executor and leaving clear instructions will give even a young, healthy person peace of mind.

An Estate Attorney can draw up the list of legal documents needed for the smooth settling of your estate. A Living Will, Advanced Directive, Medical Power of Attorney and Durable Power of Attorney along with the standard Estate Will are all good investments to provide the proper tools for your Executor. A Financial Advisor can also help guide you so your hard-earned dollars go where you desire and not the tax man. Don’t forget to list any charities!

Gather all information for insurance, investments, loans and credit cards, bank accounts, rent leases, storage units, vehicle titles, W-2’s, tax returns, etc. in a fireproof box and make sure your person knows where to find it, or leave direction with your attorney. Update annually, or if you have any significant changes.

Minor children are hopefully already protected through Divorce Decree, but don’t forget your pets. Find that special someone that will take your pets upon your death. Make arrangements for that person to receive a fair amount of money for their future ~ food, vet bills and plenty of treats!