Death and taxes are life’s two certainties. While they are both inevitable, Tax Day in April comes around every year. We get much more practice preparing our taxes than planning funerals or organizing memorial services.
Tax Day has once again come and gone, and we know it will be back. Yet death and funerals happen infrequently, and they always seem to be a surprise. I suggest utilizing these five tips to reduce the stress of addressing both death and taxes:
- Deal with it: Neither the Tax Man nor the Grim Reaper will wait when the appointed time comes. Avoid procrastination! Just as talking about sex won’t make you pregnant, talking about funerals won’t make you dead.
- Plan ahead to save money: Smart taxpayers look at all the angles for taking advantage of deductions before the end of the year. Smart consumers pre-plan their funerals so they know the substantial costs involved and can figure out how to afford a meaningful “good goodbye.”
- Collect important information: Taxpayers who place all their W-2, 1098, 1099 and other tax forms in one place make it easier when it’s time to file. Similarly, have one place for the Will, advance directives, veteran discharge papers, personal information, and list of people to contact upon death. It makes it much easier having important information all in one place.
- Keep good records: Knowing your income and expenses for the year simplifies accurate, complete tax preparation. Knowing a person’s birthplace, social security number, mother’s maiden name, family contacts, and other information can save family members much stress at a time of grief.
- Make it meaningful: Charitable contributions made before the end of the year can help reduce taxes while helping the taxpayer’s favorite causes. Discussing preferences for an end-of-life celebration, before there’s any death or illness, gives family members helpful insights to create a meaningful ceremony when the time comes.
Take the sting out of death and taxes by taking these steps to organize your information and communicate your wishes.
Gail Rubin, “The Doyenne of Death,” speaks to groups about “Funeral Planning for Those Who Don’t Plan to Die” and gets the conversation going. A member of the Association for Death Education and Counseling, she’s the author of the new book, A Good Goodbye (www.AGoodGoodbye.com) and The Family Plot Blog (TheFamilyPlot.wordpress.com).
Academy Guest Blogger
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
6050 Santo Rd., Ste. 240
San Diego, CA 92124