Life After Your Death – Part 1 

Catherine Pegram

It’s a topic most people don’t care to talk about – what happens after they die.But planning for it can save the ones you love a lot of pain, time and even legal trouble. In fact, taking the time to organize your estate now can be an investment in your family’s future. As Johneen Eckardt of Orono scans through family photos, she knows there’ll be another face in these pictures soon with the birth of her fifth grandchild.It’s taking care her family that’s prompted her and her husband, Mike, to really focus on what happens to their assets when they’re gone. Mike Eckardt says, “How could we come up with some creative way of insuring our three sons and their families and grandchildren could all get together on a regular basis.”Johneen adds, “It’s also had a comforting feeling to it. It has a sense of legacy.”Bangor attorney Jennifer Eastman specializes in estate planning and says leaving that legacy starts with a will – no matter how much or how little you have.”If you have assets in your name and only your name, then you’re going to need probate to determine where those assets are going to go. And if you want to have control over that, you will need a will.”A basic estate plan also takes into consideration your money and your health. That means a durable financial power of attorney and an advanced healthcare directive.Eastman says, “Who’s going to take care of you when you no longer have the capacity to make your own decisions and manage your finances. Who’s going to be able to make healthcare decisions for you.”Eastman says hiring an attorney to make sure your paperwork is in place can also protect your assets and your peace of mind. “It may be that there’s some nuance in Maine law that you don’t know about that’s not addressed by whatever on-line service you’re using or whatever CD you buy at Staples that would drastically affect what is really your intention.”And could cost your family thousands of dollars in legal fees to fix, as well as a lot of emotional stress.The Eckardts plan to avoid all of that with their estate plan and actually foster the strength of their family. They’ve set up a trust fund to pay for yearly reunions so their children in Massachusetts, Florida and California can always get together.”They all love one another, they enjoy being with one another,” Mike says. “But there are challenges for both the time as well as the money to be able to do that. So we wanted to be able to ensure that could continue when both of us are no longer here.”Everyone in the family knows their intentions, too, though it hasn’t always been easy to talk about life after mom and dad die. But the Eckardts say planning for that time now is worth it.”There’s surprising comfort in this,” says Johneen. “There really is if you’re putting down what your wishes are about yourself. I think there’s surprising comfort in it.”Eastman says the average estate plan costs between $500 and $800, but it can vary depending on your needs.It’s never too early to start estate planning, especially if you have children. Find out about that in Part 2 of “Life After Your Death”.