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Pre-Settle Your Estate

Remember the feeling of heading into a holiday weekend with no homework looming? How about preparing for the ultimate long weekend -- death -- free of the nitpicky details that make Sunday nights such a drag?

True, nothing's a bigger drag than expiring -- though it's not you who suffers the aftershocks, but your loved ones.

Estate planner and author Martin Kuritz has compiled the CliffsNotes to speed you through the basics of putting your important papers in place so your survivors don't have to. In a free supplement (pdf download) to The Beneficiary Book -- a family information organizer -- Kuritz provides a checklist of 44 "to do" items to settle an estate.

There are the obvious items (although "obvious" becomes less so to those grieving), such as locating life insurance policies and notifying appropriate agencies, such as Social Security and Medicare. And then there are the less-obvious tasks, such as evaluating security needs at the deceased's residence and ordering a sufficient number of death certificates to provide appropriate entities.

Sound like a drag? It's certainly better than the confusion, pain, and even resentment loved ones experience when a family member passes away leaving little or no directions on how to settle their estate. Kuritz's free supplement, "First Things...," provides the prompts to get your most important papers in order and provide contact information for anyone who needs to be notified. (As for the three legal documents you must have to make your wishes known while you're still able to communicate, check out the current issue of Rule Your Retirement, available with a 30-day free trial.)

This brief homework assignment is the perfect entree for those who have yet to sit down with their older relatives and have "the talk" -- the dreaded conversation about their final financial wishes. Doing it now is better than the alternative of digging through the yellowed stacks of 40-year-old files trying to figure out what is the right thing to do while mourning a loss. (If you need further encouragement, here are some tips on approaching this ginger subject.)

Go ahead and get those "First Things..." out of the way. It'll make this coming President's Day weekend a lot more relaxing.

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