Traverse City Record-Eagle

Business

April 13, 2014

Fred Goldenberg: Coffee, cake and curtains

TRAVERSE CITY — I sat eating coconut cake and drinking coffee at an area cafe recently discussing with others a topic most people shy away from.

I was participating in a death café. Death cafes are a worldwide phenomenon where people gather and share their fears, desires and thoughts on death. They talk about a “good” death and a “bad” death and what you need to do to have a good one.

These were eight things that were brought up to help you on your way:

n Write a will: If you die without a will, complete strangers and state law will decide how to split up your estate and raise your children. In lieu of a will, the court gives first dibs to a spouse and children, followed by other relatives. If you have no family, your property goes to the state.

n Consider final expense life insurance: Final expense life insurance is designed to provide your family with the ability to pay for your funeral and any final expenses you might have. The average funeral in Michigan is $9,000 and if you want cremation it will still cost close to $4,000. Most people can qualify for a policy even if they have health issues.

n Establish critical end-of-life documents: A durable power of attorney lets your agent manage your finances and legal affairs. A release-of-information form gives doctors permission to share your medical records with designated representatives. Advance directives provide guidance when you are alive but incapacitated. A living will specifies the medical treatment you do or do not want at the end of your life.

n Avoid probate: There are a few simple ways to avoid probate or at least minimize the impact of probate. POD bank accounts or payable on death accounts pass on to beneficiaries probate free. TOD stock accounts are accounts that transfer on death accounts and pass to beneficiaries probate free. Life insurance proceeds and money in retirement accounts pass directly to beneficiaries.

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