Estate Planning: Don't Be Unwilling

At first glance, estate planning may seem like an impossible task.  As difficult as it may seem, it is much more stressful during a crisis or after death. A 2015 estate-planning survey by Harris Poll suggests that 64% of Americans do not have a will in place. 

Enter Chanel Reynolds, a member of the “sandwich generation” who was juggling the responsibility of caring for her children and her parents. Her husband was hit and killed on his bike and she was left with an unsigned will, a mountain of paperwork and endless legal fees. Reynolds eventually emerged from the mess and decided to work on helping others understand the process. She created a website called GYST, which is full of resources, checklists, and templates for estate planning. Chanel’s story is tragic but she tells it publically, using it as a learning tool to better prepare others. 

Reynolds’ interest in creating an “end of life” cultural shift hasn’t gone unnoticed. In an interview on NPR, she humorously talked about small gatherings that she started putting together . She calls them high-functioning happy hours - where a group of friends get together, gather their documents and fill them out together; maybe even toast at the end. Reynolds feels that if we can have Tupperware parties, we can have living-will parties too. 

Listen to the whole interview here.

Key Documents that you Need to Have: 

  • Will
  • Living Will
  • Power of Attorney
  • Medical Power of Attorney
  • Life Insurance Policies
  • Birth Certificate

Other Important Information:

  • Bank Names and checking, savings, and other bank account information
  • Retirement Account Information
  • Credit Card Numbers
  • Mortgage Information
  • Passwords for home, computer, cell phone, email accounts, social networking sites, online accounts like Amazon, Netflix, subscriptions.

The key part of Reynolds’s vision is to not wait and to not tackle this process alone. A great starting point for many families is to have an eldercare-coaching session with a Geriatric Care Manager. As an RN or MSW, they are able to guide you through the pitfalls of planning, provide a neutral assessment of the situation, navigate family dynamics, and give professional advice on important healthcare aspects and eldercare needs. 


Published on April 15, 2017.