Benjamin Franklin said there were only two things certain in life: death and taxes. Yet in spite of everyone having an expiration date, many people live as if they have endless tomorrows. When the inevitable happens, it commonly causes serious consequences particularly when a spouse who handled all of the finances dies first. This can leave a grieving spouse (or children) overwhelmed with trying to figure out what assets are owned and what needs to be done. No one should ever leave their loved ones in such a predicament. Fortunately, as explained in a recent Wall Street Journal article (“Estate Planning for the Uninitiated”) with some planning, loved ones can be protected by making certain your family is never unprepared for your demise. Here are some key steps that should be taken:
1. Plan your estate. This will likely include a will or trust.
2. Plan for the possibility that you might become disabled due to a stroke, cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or other serious illness. This should include a durable power of attorney for finances and a health care power of attorney.
3. Make certain your durable power of attorney includes the authority to access digital accounts.
4. Make certain your loved ones (spouse and children) are familiar with ALL your assets - real estate, bank accounts, CDs, IRA, 401K or other qualified and nonqualified investment accounts, life insurance, annuities, etc., and where they can find your statements.
5. Write down or store your electronic passwords utilizing a password service and make certain they are accessible by your loved ones.
6. If you have a financial advisor (and you probably should), make sure your loved ones are at least acquainted with him or her.
7. Plan your funeral. It’s difficult enough when a loved one dies, it is especially hard to plan a funeral while also grieving the loss of a loved one.
With some basic, common sense steps you can protect your loved ones from your inevitable death or possible illness. Far too many people fail to plan and when something happens, their family is left to pick up the scattered pieces. Do yourself and your family a favor, don’t make that mistake.