479 NEWS

The D Word

The D Word: Overcoming the Taboo of Death to Plan for Your Family's Future and Your Peace of Mind

Adulthood is hectic, filled with deadlines and commitments. Those of us who work in the television and motion picture industry spend long hours in ever-changing locations and conditions, dividing our time between completing our current project and getting hired for the next one. The last thing we think about in the midst of this non-stop activity is ”What will happen to my family if I DIED today?”

A Difficult Topic

The D Word. Death. We see it every day. Whether it’s in the news or on our favorite television show, we are surrounded by references to and images of death and dying.  However something changes if the discussion of death begins to involve our own demise. The discussion of our mortality has become a taboo subject in modern America, so much so that many of our members won’t read past this opening paragraph.  This is unfortunate, since most of us would want our families to be safe and secure if we were to pass away unexpectedly.

Unexpected deaths happen all the time and the effects can be devastating, especially for families that lose their main breadwinner. Planning for the eventuality of our own death is an important and often overlooked part of a family’s overall financial plan.

But let’s face it, we are going to die.
It’s how we prepare for death that matters.


Death Planning

As macabre as it may sound, financial experts suggest that you invest the same effort planning for the eventuality of your death as you would for preparing for a wedding.

Between death and matrimony, only one is truly final; you cannot annul a death.


What is an Estate?

Upon your death your heirs will inherit your assets, including your investments. However, they will also inherit your debts. The net sum of your assets, investments, and debts is referred to as your ‘estate’.

Estate = Assets + Investments - Debts

A person’s estate can encompass a wide range of items of definable worth, including real estate, vehicles, cash, stocks, bonds, other investments, legal rights, entitlements, and properties or titles of any kind.

When an estate has outstanding debt, some of its assets may need to be sold to clear those debts (part of a process known as “settling an estate”).


Inform Your Loved Ones

It’s a good idea to inform trusted family members of your intentions while you are alive so that they are prepared to properly execute your plans for the distribution of your estate upon your death.

Engaging your family in this conversation may seem awkward at first, but the more you discuss it the more sense it will make.


Disappearing Paper Trails

In today’s ‘paperless’ society information is almost entirely locked behind password-protected websites, and most people are terrible at keeping track of their passwords.

Without a paper trail to follow it’s possible that some of your accounts may be overlooked during the settling of your estate, a period of time in which your family may most need access to those funds.


The Big Picture

To provide guidance for your family consider creating an inventory of all your assets, from property to investments. Be sure to include policy numbers, contact information, and other relevant information for each investment. Some assets may be held individually, some may be held jointly.

Many financial advisors provide a worksheet to help you assemble all the information regarding your estate into one document. A sample of this type of worksheet is provided here for illustration {Sample Worksheet PDF}.


Estate Planning Checklist


It’s a good idea to store your completed asset inventory in a secure location, accessible to your loved ones and/or your executor upon your death, if not before.


Safe Deposit Box or Fire Safe

A traditional method for keeping paper records safe from loss, damage, or theft is to put them into a safe deposit box at a bank. However, if you live by yourself don’t store away documents your heirs may need immediately following your passing, as they may not be able to quickly access your safe deposit box.

If nothing else, consider purchasing a small fire safe to ensure your most important documents can survive a home fire.


Include IATSE Local 479 Benefits on Your Assets Checklist

As of the publication of this article the following insurance benefits are provided to you through your membership in IATSE Local 479 and should be recorded as part of your estate’s holdings. If you are uncertain about your participation in any of these policies contact Local 479’s Benefits Coordinator.

  1. Annuity through the IA National Benefits Fund, (currently administered by Wells Fargo)
  2. Pension through the IA National Benefits Fund
  3. CAPP account for medical – any funds left in your CAPP account can be transferred to your spouse or children
  4. Life Insurance National Benefits Fund
    1. $20,000 for C1 & C2
    2. $10,000 for C3
  5. $4,000 Accidental Death & Dismemberment through American Income Life
  6. $5,000 life insurance through Met Life


Do You Have a Will?

Do you have a legal document that outlines your wishes regarding the distribution of your property and other important considerations like the legal care of your minor children upon your passing? Between one-half and two-thirds of American adults do not have a will. But do you need one?

Consider creating a will if you care about these issues:

  1. Who gets your property if you die?
  2. Who gets your money if you die?
  3. Who will be the appointed guardian of your minor children if you die?


Wills are Not Just for the Rich and Wealthy

Regardless of how many or how few assets you collect, a will ensures that whatever you do have will go to the family members or other beneficiaries you designate. If you own a business, a will can help ensure a smooth legal transition of those assets.


Preparation of a Will

You can use a variety of sources to help you prepare a will, from family lawyers to websites like LegalZoom. Legal requirements for wills differ from state to state, so be certain that your will meets all stipulations to avoid having it contested.

In Georgia, two competent people must witness a person signing their final will and testament. These witnesses must be disinterested parties; people who do not stand to benefit from the proceeds of the will.

If your holdings are extensive or the division of your estate complex you should consider hiring a trained professional.

Attorneys and financial advisors specialize in the execution of wills and can provide excellent planning guidance. For these service providers death is simply a part of their job. The abstraction of working with a professional planner can help dispel any anxiety you may experience during this process.


Choose an Executor to Handle Your Estate

Through a will, you can also name what is known as an executor, or the person with whom you trust to have the authority to ensure that your wishes are carried out and to ensure that all of your affairs are in order from paying off bills to canceling credit cards.

Select an executor to carry out your will upon your death – this person must be named in your will. If that person is unable or unwilling to serve upon your death the court will appoint someone to act as executor.


Choose a Guardian for Your Children

Beyond your property and personal belongings, if you have minor children, a will is a must. A will ensures that you get to choose your children’s legal guardian should you pass before your children are of legal adult age.

Consider the possibility that something may happen to both you and your spouse, leaving your under-age children behind. Naming a potential guardian in your will ensures that your wishes will be respected by the court. If you are leaving your children property you should also nominate a person to act as steward for their inheritance.



Most investments provide investors with the ability to nominate their beneficiaries. Do you know if you have done this for your investments? Log in to the investment website and update your settings today.



Without a will a court will make all these decisions on your behalf, among others, through a lengthy and potentially stressful process called probate. Few people plan to die in the immediate future, but if you do die suddenly without a will, you will inadvertently subject your family and loved ones to unnecessary confusion and anxiety at what will already be a difficult time.


Disposition of Your Remains

The hours and days immediately following the loss of a loved one can be particularly difficult to navigate, and making decisions about burial or cremation services can be emotionally overwhelming.


The Cost of Burial and Cremation

Many families are unprepared for the costs of laying their loved one to rest. The cost of a typical burial can range from $7,000 to in excess of $10,000, while cremations typically cost between $600 and $3,000. The cost difference between burials and cremations has been reported as the primary reason that cremations have become more common.



Paying for your funerary costs ahead of time can greatly reduce the expense and the stress that your loved ones will face in the days immediately following your death.

Many funeral homes offer pre-planning services that allow customers to pre-plan / pre-pay their own funeral, from style of casket (or urn) to type of service. Cemeteries plots are relatively small pieces of real estate, but they aren’t cheap and the cost to purchase them rises every year.


Military Funeral

Veterans who wish to have a military funeral will need to provide a copy of their military discharge papers from the Department of Defense (form DD 214). If you not have a physical copy of your DD 214 you can order a copy from the National Archives (link). Keep this document in a safe place your family can easily access.


Union Paperwork

Surviving family members are welcome to make an appointment with our Benefits Coordinator, Lauralyn Walsh, for guidance with union-related benefits.


Don’t Let Death Get the Final Word

One of the most unexpected aspects of making an inventory of your assets is a greater understanding of areas where your investment strategy is weak. If you go to the effort of finding a fee-based financial planner/advisor be sure to discuss ways to improve and increase your assets so you can enjoy some of them while you’re still among the living!