Till Death Do Us Part – Wills and Funeral Arrangements for the Elderly

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day sheds light on necessary arrangements for wills and funeral arrangements for older adults. Media coverage of wills and funeral arrangements for seniors often focus on in-fighting and fraud by family and legal guardians. Although there are many such sensational cases, the best reason for proper arrangements for wills and funerals are to set the elderly at ease.

Structured plans ensure that seniors' last wishes are carried out, and that children and outsiders know the boundaries. The purpose of the process is to ease stress and worry in an honorable way.

North American and international governments have set out guidelines for wills and funeral arrangements. This article is based on The Government of Canada Web site - www.seniors.gc.ca.

Wills and estate planning

The purpose of a will

A will is the most practical way to communicate to others the distribution of the estate - property and possessions. An executor needs to be named to make decisions after death, even if there is little money or property.

What happens if there is no will?

In most regions - states, provinces, etc - the nearest relatives will share in the estate if an elderly person dies without making a will. A complicated estate could force relatives to employ a lawyer and deal with the estate in court. Often, a government agency gets involved to ensure that the estate is dealt with properly.

Naming the executor

The executor - also called the trustee - is named in the will to be in charge of property and possessions after death. The executor implements written instructions in the will. The role can be time-consuming and involve hours of paperwork, and is often a close relative. Otherwise, a professional can be appointed from a trust company, a legal or accountancy firm, or Public Trustee. It is recommended that fees are checked for outside professionals.

Understanding estate planning

Estate planning involves a plan for distributing all assests through a will or by some other means. Some assets may be distributed before death, and others separately handled from the rest of your estate, such as any business holdings. Legal documents, in addition to the will, are necessary.

When legal advice is necessary

A will and other estate documents are legal documents. It's recommended they be prepared by a lawyer. Will kits and guides cannot take the place of a competent legal expert.

Funeral planning

Funeral plans vary in complexity. Arrangements with family and friends may be sufficient. Pre-arranged and pre-paid funerals involve organizing with a funeral home or memorial society. Pre-paying is advanced payment.

Final Recommendations

Professional advice is highly recommended when preparing legal documents such as a will. For the family's well-being, the physical location of the will and other legal documents need to be known. Make decisions on which family members can have access to the personal safety deposit box. The will needs to be reviewed every five years, or sooner, when there is a change in the family, or if the older adult re-marries.

The family needs to know about funeral wishes or plans. A pre-paid for a funeral is not advised without a money back guarantee, in case of a move or change your mind.