The checkbox on new hire paperwork about life insurance, may start to seem a little more important during the days of COVID-19. For many it was an obvious choice when the employer was giving something for “free.” Professionals have a safety net policy to help their family members for a short time. For consultants, self-employed and business owners, life insurance was a security blanket. A new stress has emerged as the media has suggested that the coronavirus cause of death would not be covered – this is not a true statement.
The most common causes of death – heart disease, cancer, and accidents, are still present and affecting all age groups. 74% of deaths in America stemmed from 10 causes, and the coronavirus may make it on the top-10 list. The CDC reports that about 647,000 Americans die from heart disease each year, while nearly 600,000 people die annually from cancer. Currently the increasing numbers of people affected by the virus are resulting in changes in all kinds of data. Insurance companies will be a valuable additional source of data as they collect this information. The Yale School of Public Health recorded an estimated 15,400 excess deaths in the United States from March through early April, twice as many as were publicly attributed to COVID-19. Life insurance companies are receiving higher numbers of applications as end-of-life conversations and preparedness are emerging as necessary, not taboo topics.
Reviewing your Life Insurance coverages
This is a good time to review the safety net or security blanket policies that you may have. You will come across many different types of life insurance policies when you start shopping––and not all of them are available from every company.
When you narrow down a policy, reviewing the type of insurance you have against your current lifestyle and needs may be advantageous. New applications are being accepted, and many companies have extended the time needed to complete the medical exam to 120 days, or 4 months. News9, an Oklahoma based news outlet, reported that individuals shopping for new policies may notice that e-signatures are now acceptable.
According to Glen Mulready, Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner, older individuals may have more trouble finding coverage.Insurance companies view older applicants as high risk and with the current economy, some have decided to limit exposures. Fortunately, there are a variety of life insurance companies, so there is a policy type for all. Finding an agent that is affiliated with multiple providers may be advantageous and save time when reviewing rates.
Accessing your Life Insurance
Upon your death, your next of kin will need to make a claim to access the life insurance policy or policies that have been created for you. These people may or may not be your beneficiary. There are three steps that need to take place before any money is released.
- Locating the policy. This involves finding the name of the company or companies that you purchased life insurance from. The NAIC, has an online life insurance policy locator service – https://eapps.naic.org/life-policy-locator/#/acknowledgment
- Connecting with the agent. The agent from the company will assist with the timeline process, provide the policy number, and necessary forms to be completed.
- Completing the Paperwork. Fill out the forms, order the death certificate and mail the forms to the company without delay. Often there is a choice to pick a lump sum or installment payouts.
Typically, the insurance money is released within a few weeks––but there are exceptions. According to Marketwatch, an insurer might deny a claim for a coronavirus death if the policyholder submitted an inaccurate or incomplete application. With this in mind, it may be worth spending a few minutes reviewing your paperwork for gaps.
As you work through the process of applying for your life insurance, reviewing your coverages or submitting a claim for a loved one, document all your findings and notes on InsureYouKnow.org – an online information storage site that allows you to access documents, and files remotely relating to your affairs. There are various levels of access to allow your family members, caregivers or business associates insight into the documents, as needed. There is even a reminder feature to help you update or revisit the policy from time to time.
The English language is such that for every rule, there is an exception or a way to break the rule and still be understood. Childhood rhymes or mnemonics are created to help memorize the rules: “i before e except when c…. “ (friend vs. receive),the letter “q” is always followed by “u” (queen, quilt), except for 78 words that came to English from other languages like Qatar and qi. Other confusions include words that are spelled the same, pronounced the same but have different meanings based on context. Examples – orange and orange, wave and wave, bat and bat. The name for this is a homograph.
A homograph that is particularly relatable to my work is the word trust. Trust can be used as verb or noun and the definitions are: 1. Trust – to have faith/confidence in truth, and 2. trust – a legal arrangement usually due to money. Interestingly you cannot have a legal trust, without having trust.
There are many layers in the formation of a trust:
Trust the process. You are not the first person to create a trust – and there are friends, family and google to help you through. There are step by step guidelines to be followed and they vary by state. In order for your trust to be a legal agreement, it needs to follow the checkboxes. These include taking stock of your assets (read my blog post on this step) and thinking about the people in your life that would be included, excluded and notified about your trust. To hold your hand and walk you through the process – an advisor can be the first formal step.
Trust the advisor. Find someone you like and that you feel like you can relate to. How do they organize the meeting? Where do you meet and what is their demeanor, and the personalities of the team? We all have preconceived expectations about what we want, and we are investing our energy, money and intimate details with the advisor. The advisors have varying expertise and may be able to assist with other to-do items as well as the trust.
Trust yourself. It is easy to second-guess or be unsure of your decisions and choices as you put together the documentation. This is a legal document and though the steps can be completed in a few days or weeks, the peace of mind when this is done right will last your lifetime. Trust yourself to complete the tasks and create a trust is yours. You can be guided by the process, standards and the advisor but ultimately this is your trust and can be notarized and funded on your timeline and comfort level.
Trust InsureYouKnow.org. It’s a safe place to store all the information in case you need to access it remotely – or from the comforts of your own home. The documents are password protected and utilize Amazon cloud encryption to secure and protect each password encrypted account. Your password is not known to the site. Only you, or someone you share the password with, can ever access your account.
Regaining trust – whether it is the confidence or the legal agreement kind – takes work and immense heartache, so getting things right the first time is advantageous to your mental, physical and financial health.
Do I really need to keep this? …yes….Now where should I keep this? In the information age it seems like there is more to keep track of – but when we come down to basics there are still basic documents that we all have and need, and need to be able to find. There is a lot of information online – bank statements, mortgage payments, bills, paystubs – but what happens when your circumstances change or the information system shuts down. Is there a way for you to get what you need – or your family members?
- Weeks. Paper receipts. The grocery store, gas, eating out. These receipts are not necessarily for long term record keeping – but they help when the credit card statement and balancing the checkbook routine comes. According to Experian research – the average U.S. consumer has an average balance of $6,354 on their credit cards. Without the paper receipts to verify transactions – the extra $100-$300 in excess charges or fraud may not be detected. After the monthly verification – the paper receipts can be discarded. Preferably in the shredder.
- Years. The ones that come to mind are the tax returns, mortgage payments and warranties. These are usually in a drawer or stuffed in a cupboard – “somewhere” and may not be accessible in an easy way. The ones that slip the mind and can be difficult to keep track of are the medical bills and plans. Even if you have changed employers, doctors or plans – there is no record of your medical history and payments other than you. Pre-existing conditions or the blood-test that didn’t get sent to the insurance company can come back years later when you interact with the same providers again. Suze Orman has an article on other documents that we should have in our record box.
- Forever – These are the one that we mention on most of our blogs and the things that are, hopefully, in our safe places. Give yourself time to get these together. Your birth certificate (and those of your household), Marriage License(s),(it is key to continue to keep the marriage license of previous marriages even if they have been officially annulled), the Adoption papers and Death certificates. Wills and Death certificates (of anyone that may be connected to your life and could have influence in your future holdings). To get a copy of most of these documents – you need to make a request at the county where the event occurred. This can be tricky when a person is born or dies in a place other than their usual place of residence. If you are unable to physically go to the county clerk office – there are third-party groups that, for a processing fee, will be able to help you get the documents you need.
As you hit the deadlines of storage – don’t forget to dispose of your paperwork carefully. Saving the planet by utilizing the recycling bin is all in good nature, but identity theft is real and has happened to 1 out of every 15 Americans. Consider investing in a home shredder that can be used on a daily basis. Alternatively there are often community shredding services multiple times a year when you can take boxes of paperwork to be safely shredded. For a fee, local office supply stores will also shred important documents.
As you reach to begin the record keeping process and shred those papers, remember InsureYouKnow.org product offerings may be your answer. It’s a safe place to digitally store all the information in case you need to access it remotely – or from the comforts of your own home. Taking stock of your records, memories and your current resources with an annual plan, may provide the peace of mind you’ve been looking for.
Our days are full. Our lives are full. We continue in our daily routine. But then something happens – the car doesn’t start, there’s a storm which makes the fence fall, the washer stops working mid-cycle. After the initial panic and stress, we utilize our resources and find a way to prioritize that and get it fixed. Perhaps a neighbor or our partner lends a hand, or we contact a handyman or the warranty company. However the larger “somethings” take a while to fix – the car needing new parts, the fence damaging the water line, or the appliances that need replacing – which alters the way that our days and lives function. Multiple resources are required to help continue our daily routine. In some cases there is no way to fix the something and we need to stop our lives and re-evaluate what life will be like now. The resources cannot fix or support us – but Insurance can help.
There are so many types of insurance – car and home insurance are the most commonly marketed along with health. Every year – the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors dedicates September to Life Insurance Awareness Month. They launch a site and full spread of marketing materials on www.lifehappenspro.org to educate the public about the importance of planning ahead for the “life happens” moments. Life insurance has been misconstrued as a product that is only available for individuals with excess or resources but there are several options for all types of people.
When you search “insurance” in google – 4,960,000,000 results – pop up. How do we find the time, the right advisor, and the right type of insurance for your personalized needs?
Go to the well-known companies – the ones that show up in the top 10 search or the ones that are advertised in your life (television, billboards, newspapers, flyers in the mail). They often have resources that inform about product types before even interacting with the sales area.
Go to someone based on referral – the ones that your friends or neighbors recommend. Family members alwayss have an opinion on something and even a negative story can steer you in the right direction. If you don’t have a community of people in your life to ask, putting an “ask” out on social media will provide comments that could be useful.
Go to a website that provides prices – the ones that can give you information without interacting with people. It’s tough to know what is a good price without knowing a ballpark range. An example of this is insureyouknow.org which provides a quote directly to your inbox after answering a few simple questions.
Insureyouknow.org can support you with your life insurance needs by providing you quotes directly on their website. There are also other InsureYouKnow.org product offerings to help you reference those important records when the “life happens” moments occur. It’s a safe place to store all the information in case you need to access it remotely – or from the comforts of your own home. An annual plan is available to support your budget needs.
It’s easy to procrastinate when it comes to writing your will. Not only is it unpleasant to think about your own death, but also determining how to distribute your assets sounds like a complicated process. You may not even know where to begin.
But begin you must. Creating a will and storing it somewhere safely like InsureYouKnow.org is one of the most important things you can do for your loved ones. A will ensures your wishes are carried out as you intended and your family is provided for and protected once you are gone.
Luckily, writing a will is actually a fairly simple process—especially if you get professional assistance. While you may be tempted to write one yourself using one many of the do-it-yourself kits available online, hiring an attorney who specializes in estate planning usually is the wisest decision.
Here are 6 reasons you should hire a lawyer to write your will:
- Your estate is complicated. If you have a very simple estate, you may be able to write your own will. But in general, that applies to a small pool of people. If you have significant assets, minor children, your own business, or other complicating factors, you definitely want to let a professional handle your will.
- You don’t want any mistakes. When it comes to your will, you want to make sure all your i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed. From getting the wording exactly right to making sure all your documents are properly signed and witnessed, there are a lot of steps involved in creating a valid will. Make sure it’s done right the first time so your loved ones aren’t dealing with a headache later.
- You want to save money. True, hiring an attorney isn’t cheap. Generally speaking, a lawyer will probably charge around $1,000 to draft your will—and it might cost more depending on your circumstances. But a lawyer also will talk you through various tax strategies that can save you and your family money in the long term.
- You need more than a will. When you use a basic template or create your will online, you’re getting a will. End of story. But an attorney will help you create a comprehensive estate plan. This will include your will along with a number of other important documents, such as a health care power of attorney and a financial power of attorney.
- You don’t know all the laws. Legal documents are complicated. Different states have different requirements. And the laws are always changing. There’s a reason lawyers are paid the big bucks: They know the laws, and they stay on top of them. A lawyer will worry about the details on your behalf.
- You haven’t thought everything through. You have a basic plan for your assets. You know who’s getting the house and how your savings will be divided up. Great! But who’s going to take care of your dog? What happens if you outlive one of your heirs? Lawyers have seen all these situations play out in real life and know how to address them in your estate plan.
Once you’ve created all your estate plan documents, it’s important to store them in a safe place and let your loved ones know where they are. At InsureYouKnow.org, we promise to keep all your critical files safe and secure. Simply upload your documents to our portal and let someone you trust know how to access them. Life is complicated; we help you uncomplicate it.
After you sign up at InsureYouKnow.org, the first thing you’ll want to do is compile a list of all the important documents you want to upload and store on the site. Most likely, at the top of your list will be your will. But take note: You should have two wills, a living will and a last will.
So what’s the difference?
A last will and testament is the document most people think of when they think of a will. It provides instructions on how to distribute your assets when you die. This is where you explain who gets your house, your cash, or any other valuables. There are a few different types of last wills, including simple wills (for uncomplicated estates), testamentary trust wills (for estates that involve a trust), and joint wills (for two individuals who want to leave their estates to each other), but they serve the same purpose: to ensure your estate is distributed as you desire.
A living will is very different from a last will. This document has nothing to do with the distribution of property. Rather, a living will is a type of advance directive that spells out the medical care you would like to receive in the event you become incapacitated and cannot communicate your wishes on your own. In other words, a living will provides a way for your loved ones to know your preferences regarding the following:
- The use of CPR if your heart stops beating
- The use of mechanical ventilation if you can no longer breathe on your own
- The use of feeding tubes if you can no longer eat or drink on your own
- The use of antibiotics and other medications
- Organ and tissue donation
According to a recent study published in the journal Health Affairs, less than one-third of U.S. adults have completed a living will. Of the 795,909 adults included in the study, 36.7 percent had completed some type of advance directive, including 29.3 percent who had completed a living will. While it’s not an enjoyable experience to sit down and imagine yourself in a situation where you can’t discuss your care with your doctor yourself, it’s incredibly important that you do so as an accident or other unexpected situation can occur at any time.
Of course, it does no good to write down your wishes if no one knows. You also have to tell your loved ones the document exists and explain where they can find it if the need arises.
“As I like to say, the form is only as good as the conversation and the shared understanding that goes along with it,” Dr. Rebecca Sudore of the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, who wasn’t involved in the study, told Reuters Health. “Some people do fill out these forms with families or lawyers, and then the forms sit in the dusty recesses of a back drawer and they are not available or shared with family and friends, especially before they are needed.”
Creating—and sharing—a living will can help your loved ones tremendously in case of a crisis. Do them and yourself a favor by completing one today and uploading it to InsureYouKnow.org. The peace of mind you will be giving your loved ones far outweighs any momentary discomfort the task may bring.
As the saying goes, nothing is certain but death and taxes. Many of us, however, spend more time making sure everything is in order for the IRS than we do for our loved ones. And when we do take the time to create a will and discuss our burial preferences with our family members, we tend to stop there.
But there are so many more details involved in our deaths than who inherits our collection of first editions and where we want to be buried.
NPR’s “Weekend Edition” recently featured a story on Amy Pickard, whose mother died unexpectedly in 2012. As she handled her mother’s estate, Pickard was overwhelmed by all the questions she couldn’t answer, from what her mom’s smartphone passcode was to how to access her bank account.
“[I had to] become a detective basically,” Pickard told NPR.
Determining what bills needed to be paid and tracking down her mom’s car title would be difficult enough on a good day, but trying to piece together the puzzle of her mom’s life while grieving made things so much harder. It took Pickard two years to fully settle her mom’s affairs.
To help prevent others from going through the same difficult experience, Pickard founded Good to Go!, which offers private parties and consultations to guide individuals through their end-of-life paperwork. Based in Los Angeles, Pickard holds a party at her home once a month where people bring food that reminds them of a deceased loved one and complete a 50-page document she calls the Good to Go! Departure File. By incorporating a relaxed, fun approach that is filled with humor, Pickard makes the process less daunting and more manageable.
The Departure File includes a template for a living will, which addresses the medical care you’d like to receive in the event you are incapacitated and can’t communicate your own wishes, from the use of CPR if your heart stops beating to your preferences regarding organ donation. It also addresses minor but important details such as whether you’d want a TV on or music playing in your hospital room. In addition, the Departure File includes a booklet covering all sorts of information your loved ones will need after you die, such as:
- Contact information for friends and business associates
- Passwords for your email and social media accounts
- Plans for your pets
- Instructions for what to do with your photos, journals, and other personal items
- Obituary preferences (whether you want one and what photo you’d like used)
- The location of letters you’ve written to loved ones to be read after you’re gone
Whether you use Pickard’s Departure File (available for purchase on her website) or create your own document, storing all your data in one place is essential. InsureYouKnow.org is the perfect spot. Be sure to upload this document along with your last will and testament, life insurance policies, health insurance information, and other important files. Your loved ones will be going through enough when you die; don’t make them go through all these unanswered questions as well.