Supposedly, you love your family. You don't want to cause them any undue agony. But if you neglect to take care of a few important paperwork issues, then your loved ones could suffer unnecessarily.

Here are six surefire ways to bestow misery upon your kith and kin:

  • Execute a durable power of attorney naming your daughter to speak for you if you become incapacitated, but forget to make her signatory on the safe-deposit box where you store the document.
  • Take out a long-term disability insurance policy but neglect to tell your spouse. Then go into a coma for six months so that Snookums has to take out a second mortgage to pay the bills. (Sorry, honey, my bad!)
  • Play a good joke on the poor soul who will complete your final tax form upon your demise: Leave your important papers under mountains of less important papers scattered all over the house.
  • Get divorced and forget to change the beneficiary on your life insurance policy. That way, your first husband -- the lunatic who ran off with the Krishnas -- gets the entire lump-sum death benefit, while your second husband and family of 50 years get zilch.
  • Forget to tell your wife about that great new financial planner you're working with -- the one who mysteriously boards a flight for the Cayman Islands the day you join that great tax-free haven in the sky.
  • Repeatedly leave the toilet seat up and just two squares of tissue on the roll.

Protecting your family's future is a great way to say, "I love you" (though the Norwegian "Jeg elsker de" is also a crowd pleaser).

Want to become your family's most cherished person? Then ...

This article was originally published in June 2006. It has been updated. The Fool has a disclosure policy.