Have you thought about what would happen if your spouse or partner died today? It’s not a pleasant thought, but it is an event for which we should all plan ahead. I am not talking about buying life insurance; but I am talking about steps to make sure your life goes on and that you can grieve your loss with fewer complications. If you are married, the state and laws of intestacy make some decisions for you if you don’t have a will. However, it would be better to plan ahead and NOT rely on these laws.
This post will focus solely on a few things that you can do in advance to make losing a spouse easier on your financial life. This way, you can grieve for your spouse and you won’t be left scrambling to find information, contacts, and important documents while distraught. Prepare a special binder or folder for that inevitable day. If you are a couple of modest means, a nice folder should suffice. If you have more to deal with such as investment accounts, businesses, or real estate, you may wish to have a binder with more sections.
The following is just a sampling of the documents to include (your binder may have more sections and documents):
- Insurance contracts
- Will and/or Trust
- Durable Powers of Attorney
- Medical Directive
- A password list (online accounts, social media platforms, etc.)
- Brokerage account information
- Bank account information
- Real estate deeds and agreements
- Cohabitation agreements (usually for unmarried couples)
- Family advisor contacts list (attorney, CPA, financial planner, etc.)
- Letter of instruction (in the event you don't have final instructions in a will)
Keep the following points in mind regarding your binder. Remember, be sure to review and update your binder documents as needed. It would be a good idea to make sure, for example, that your password list is updated frequently. Social media platforms and passwords for bank and brokerage accounts change frequently. You may also need to update your will or powers of attorney if you make changes about your decisions or have new members join your family, or if you simply change your mind about your final instructions. Be sure to let each other know where this binder will be stored. It’s also a good idea to let a close relative or family friend know about your binder and its location. If you do not have a family member or friend that you trust, ask your attorney or other close advisor if they would be willing to safeguard your binder.
This does not have to be a morbid exercise. It’s a loving exercise you can do together with your spouse or partner to take care of each other right up to the end – and beyond! If you haven’t drafted a will or decided what you want for end of life decisions, this exercise could spur that conversation. You take care of one another in life; do so at the end of life as well. If you need help setting up a document binder, contact me. As an independent CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, I can help you. Contact me at 415-226-9773. #talktometuesday #finalwishes #documentsyouneed