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Questions to ask yourself before it’s too late

Harley Wagenseller for Progressive Dairy Published on 23 July 2021

Dear Mr. or Mrs. Dairy Producer,

Will you please talk to me? Sad to say, you passed away yesterday, but that aside, I need you to talk to me now.



What was your full legal name, social security number, date of birth, birthplace, father’s legal name, mother’s legal nam, and perhaps even your mother’s maiden name? I will need this for your death certificate. Is there anyone who should be notified of your death? It would be helpful if you would give me a list of people, their email addresses and phone numbers.

Did you prepare your funeral services? Did you desire to be buried or cremated? Did you desire a close friend to give a Bible-based talk letting people know your hope for the future? A few answers would really help. Were you a veteran? What was your rank, serial number, Veteran’s Affairs claim number, date of your service in the military, discharge status, etc.? You are being too quiet.

As I arrived at your home today, I found your key under the doormat. Ouch! I looked through your papers for your last will and testament – not there! Well, I suppose there is at least a durable power of attorney somewhere here? Not here! Surely there must be paperwork related to life insurance policies, banking, brokerage, individual retirement accounts, etc. Oh my – none to be found! It must be that you put everything on the computer. For sure you had a lawyer, an accountant, a safety deposit box, correct? Names would be great about now.

Think about it; years ago when someone died you got all kinds of information – from where? From the U.S. Postal Service. Collect and check the mail. The mail had bank and brokerage statements, 1099s from the co-op you sold your milk to for 40 years. Collect the mail, be patient, and all the info will show up. However, it seems the U.S. mail will provide progressively less and less information as the internet conducts more and more business. You were the most knowledgeable person alive regarding your wants, desires, assets and business, but now you are dead, leaving us with little to go on and few clues about any of that.

It seems in reality, you are really alive and able to benefit from all these questions. Use them  to create a checklist of information to manage your estate when you really die. Think about how the answers to these questions will mean a great deal to the person you were going to appoint to settle your affairs after you are gone. That, of course, raises a very important question: Whom do you trust to hold that information to be used when you are dead? You could put such information in a safe deposit box in a sealed envelope. Perhaps your attorney would retain it. If you do that, tell the person whom you trust to retrieve those documents after you die. Or perhaps put the information in a Word document or PDF that could be easily accessed by your trusted relative or friend. Remember, this roadmap could be used against you, so this person must be someone you have complete trust in. We all know you can’t take your assets with you when you die. Make sure that the people who matter most to you can and will be rewarded. Your beneficiaries will no doubt thank you for your largess for years to come.  end mark


Harley Wagenseller