Estate Planning Cheat Sheet: How to Look After My Family After Death

Written by Fraser Stewart
Reading time 4 minutes
Estate Planning Cheat Sheet: How to Look After My Family After Death image

The last thing anybody wants is their family to struggle in the wake of their death. Careful estate planning can ensure your family is provided for once you are gone.

This article will provide a cheat sheet of everything you need to ensure your family thrives after grieving.

How to Look After My Family Financially After Death

No matter if you are a single or dual-income household, if you are the breadwinner or a homemaker, your death will have financial repercussions for your family. Luckily for you, there are some easy ways you can ensure they will have financial stability after your death. Depending on the value of your assets, this may be for a couple of years or for life.

Life insurance

Life insurance provides a lump-sum payment to a chosen beneficiary after your death. The beneficiary can use this as they see fit. It is useful for paying off a mortgage or just covering expenses until your family can sort themselves financially.

Teach family members financial literacy

Do your loved ones know how to manage finances? Ensure the other members of your house how to pay the rent or mortgage and utilities at the very least. While you are still alive, try and give them as much financial knowledge as possible to ensure they can function independently.

Leave a list of key accounts and passwords

Keep this in a safe where it cannot be accessed except in the case of your death. If necessary, give instructions on what dates payments happen and if there are any particular actions that need to be taken.

Write a will

Writing a will is key to looking after your family after death. You can leave instructions for the split of your assets and even insurance to ensure your loved ones are taken care of. Do not leave everything to one party and rely on them to do the right thing. They will be conflicted about your wishes and often hounded by other family members. You also run the risk of them simply keeping all the money for themselves and not taking care of other loved ones.

Create trusts for your children

If your children are young, you can leave instructions for portions of money to be left in trusts for your children. Research the types of trusts you can create; many are held until the children reach a certain age or milestone like higher education or purchasing a house. In practice, it may be best not to designate the trust for higher education. Not all family members will seek out higher education, depending on their career aspirations. You can simply designate the money for life events like buying a house or attending university.

Organise caretakers for dependants and pets

Decide with your partner who will be the primary caretaker for dependants and pets in the case of your death. These may be different people depending on your circumstances (blended family or pet-allergic relatives). Your will should outline the legal guardians if only you die and if both you and your partner die. Have a few contingency plans in there, just in case. You should update your will regularly if beneficiaries or guardians die, move away, or their circumstances change.

Reduce inheritance tax (IHT)

A few small tweaks to your will can reduce the amount of inheritance tax you pay. If you have an estate that is over the inheritance tax threshold of £325,000, then sit down with a financial planner to work out the most tax-efficient solution. This may include putting money in trusts, making small gifts to beneficiaries, or making charitable donations.

How to Look After My Family Emotionally After Death

Plan a funeral

Take the stress out of planning your funeral by leaving clear instructions for preferences. The detail you go into should be decided by your family. You should write down some favourite songs you might want played, burial vs cremation, and out of town friends who should be invited. The more details you can give them the better. You may even consider putting money aside for your funeral or finding a life insurance policy that covers funeral expenses.

Write letters

This is a completely optional step. However, it might be nice to leave some final words of comfort or advice to your family. It is up to you what you write in these letters, but leave words of love. Post-humous hate letters rarely go down well. If you have estranged family members, consider writing a letter to leave the relationship on a good note (depending on the reasons for estrangement). Some people leave instructions for heirlooms to be passed onto children on milestone birthdays.

Do not make demanding final wishes

Final wishes are a tricky thing, often made with the best of intentions. Family are told to go on with a holiday they had been looking forward to or to find love. Grief is somehow shoehorned into huge gestures that divide a family. It is perfectly acceptable to say to family and friends that you don’t want them to spend their whole life grieving you. That if they want to go on the trip, they should. However, making it a final wish means that grieving family will only be pressured by people to respect your dying wishes. Sometimes, a holiday that you had been looking forward to taking together will only hurt more.

Tread lightly around asking people to take care of your family

While everyone loves the idea of their family pulling together so nobody is lonely after your death, it doesn’t always work that way. If you bring too many grieving parties together to “help” each other, you end up creating tension and not giving people room to grieve in their own way. Your parents who moved in to support your grieving partner are being waited on hand and foot by said partner and making them feel like they’re not grieving in the right way. Your best friend’s check-ins on your family are intrusive at a time when they want to be alone to process grief. By all means, express your wish that everyone look out for each other, but do it in a way that does not create obligations.

Clean your digital footprint

Ask someone to clean any nasty surprises from your devices or online presence. Do not hurt your grieving family by allowing them to uncover infidelity, online hate speech, or nasty messages about them once you are gone. Leave a list for a trusted friend of things that need to be deleted in the event of your death.

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