My husband says I worry too much. I recently suggested that he use one of these new “meal delivery” services if something were ever to happen to me. He said I worry too much. But, it’s important to me that our family sits down together for dinner – and with this meal service, it would be easier for him to set out a meal should I no longer be around. Right?
I told him that it’s not that I worry too much, but I am a planner. In fact, planning often reduces or eliminates the worrying. Mealtime is not the only thing I plan for.
In some households (like mine) there may be one person who takes responsibility for a majority (all) of the financial responsibilities. Divide and conquer is often an effective and efficient way to manage household responsibilities. But what if something happened to the spouse who took care of the financial details? Would the other spouse know how to get up to speed? Would they know where important documents are kept and where to go for help? It’s not exactly date night conversion (unless you are on a date with me), but discussing these things now can eliminate a lot of added stress if something unfortunate were to happen.
Here are a few questions to get you started:
Important Documents and Passwords
- Do you know where passwords are stored? Consider using a secure password manager like www.lastpass.com.
- Do you know how bills are paid each month, e.g. manually or by direct withdrawal? Can you streamline this process, make it visible and repeatable?
- Do you know the timing of when important annual bills, e.g. insurance premiums and property taxes, are paid and where the money for those payments comes from?
- Are your estate planning documents, wills, trusts, and powers of attorney easily accessible?
- Are other important documents such as Social Security card (or at least number), birth, marriage, military papers, car and home titles easily accessible? Why not get these items organized now? Keep a paper file, but also have a scanned copy stored in a secure cloud storage area. Our clients use their online vault in their financial planning site for this type of storage.
- How much coverage do you have in place and where are the actual policies?
- Who is named as primary and contingent beneficiaries?
- How long does the coverage last?
- Is it the right amount – how many years of salary for the deceased spouse would that cover?
Savings and Income
- Other than insurance proceeds, what savings will the surviving spouse have to pay for living expenses? Where are those accounts and how easily can you access them?
- How much does each spouse have in retirement benefits? At what age will you be able to access those funds?
- What Social Security income would you be eligible for and for how long?
- If there is a pension, will it continue?
Financial Support Team – Even if you don’t have these advisors in place now, who would you turn to if needed?
- Financial advisor – Is this someone your spouse would feel comfortable working with?
- Tax preparer.
- Estate planning attorney (if you don’t have one you’ve used recently, make an appointment soon!).
- Is there a key contact at your employer, i.e. a benefits administrator, who would be helpful?
- Is there a trusted friend or family member you may ask to come with you to important appointments to take notes and be a second set of ears?
Any special instructions?
- Bequests to friends or family.
- Funeral and burial wishes.
- A meal plan, perhaps. 😉
One of the benefits of working with a good, comprehensive, financial adviser is that you will work through many of these questions with them. It takes a lot of effort, but with the help of your advisor, you and your family will have peace of mind knowing that these questions have been answered.