Last year, it hit me how so many of our clients – and many people in general – do not have an organized way to help their surviving loved ones carry on with their finances once they are no longer here. My team has witnessed spouses in distress because bills were piling up and they didn’t know where all the money, insurance, estate documents, and bills were located. As a result, they were immediately overwhelmed. People need a team surrounding them during major transitions to help make decisions while they deal with their emotions and take the proper time to mourn a loss or major change.

Preparing your family for life events can feel like a project that is tough to tackle and you may not even know where to begin! As a financial advisor of many years, I am passionate about helping people plan for the “what ifs” that life can bring and offer confidence to them and their loved ones when the inevitable takes place.

We are all busy and the idea of taking a Saturday to pull information together for your inevitable death (morbid- I know) is anything but “fun”; however, it can be very helpful for everyone involved. There is comfort in knowing that when something unplanned happens, you have a plan!

Just imagine: You lose a loved one and any little thing could set you off or make you feel like you may not be able to figure things out on your own. I remember a client that lost her husband, and her Comcast was shut off because the bills weren’t paid. She had no idea if the bill was on auto pay or she needed to write a check. Our team’s goal is to share tactics with our clients that help them to be proactive now rather than later and can make a situation much, much easier.

Part of my Retire While You Work philosophy is to build a team of individuals around you that can allow whoever is left to handle the financials in the case of your death the ability to focus on important things such as mourning, spending time with family, God, etc. – not paying bills!

Even one piece of paper can be better than nothing. In fact, it’s probably 90% of what you need! You can do this in 2 hours, I’ve helped many people accomplish this. Here are some simple things you can do relatively quickly that can make a huge difference:

1. Write down all your monthly bills (cable, water, phone, yard person, etc.) and how you pay them – whether through check, auto pay through your banking system – as well as where the bill payment hub is located while also providing usernames and passwords to your billing accounts. Pretend like you are giving me instructions as a person who knows nothing about your home or your bill payment system.
2. Do the same for your investment accounts – for example: John has an IRA at Raymond James with around $100k in it, Susie has a trust account at Fidelity with $500k in it and here is the 1-800 number as well as the account number and any other pertinent details. You may even provide full statements – the more the better – but something is better than nothing when it comes time for your loved ones to dive into all the accounts.
3. Locate your estate planning documents– wills, trusts, power of attorneys, living will, etc. Give a copy to your loved ones, financial planner, estate attorney, and keep the original in a safe place at home.
4. Organize your life insurance policies– example: “100k term policy on john for 20 years, bought it around 2011, expires 2031, bought from John Doe at XYZ Insurance Company, I think policy is in the safe. Safe is in the closet, code is 1234.” Again, anything helps to give a starting point for your family. Many life insurance policies go unclaimed every year!
5. List your bank accounts– example: “we have 2 checking, 2 savings, a Christmas account, and a travel account.” Write down where they are located, approximate balance, etc. People forget about accounts for years and years because they are on different statements or go to an old address. I’ve seen horror stories surrounding this.
Funny story – every 6 months, a client would call me and say, “David I think I found a 50k CD I didn’t know we had!” I would laugh and say “must be nice, I want this problem!” But what if he died and never knew about this or his family could have used it for a medical bill and saved someone’s life or paid off a debt that was hindering them for years!?
6. Other things to include: passwords, logins, social media information (to remove accounts), email accounts, etc. Safety tips include being smart as to where you write this private information down. We had the FBI on our radio show recently and they said having it written down and stored in the safe and then maybe in a book somewhere on a shelf as a bookmark is something they have suggested in the past. Some put this information on their computer and lock the file but then what if someone can’t open it? Don’t obsess, just be smart, as there is no perfect plan.

Remember, there are lots of things you can do! And if nothing else, if you have a true wealth management team like us, just tell the family “if something happens to me call this person, they know everything.” The goal is to enjoy life, be a good steward of your resources, help others (planning helps here), and not stress and detract from your happiness.

Many people do not like to think about big life events that are unplanned and can be viewed as negative or sad, but the reality is, life happens and there are ways to feel more secure when it does. You can create this in two hours, this week. I’m serious; I believe in you!

Remember, there is comfort in knowing that in case something unplanned happens, you have a plan!

The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Any opinions are those of David Adams and not necessarily those of Raymond James. Expressions of opinion are as of this date and are subject to change without notice. There is no guarantee that these statements, opinions or forecasts provided herein will prove to be correct. The above are hypothetical examples for illustration purpose only and do not represent an actual investments.

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