Saturday, May 25, 2013
Yesterday's New York Times Business Day section had an interesting article entitled, The Talk You Didn't Have With Your Parents Could Cost You.
The article talked about the death of Krysten Crawford's mother. Krysten and her siblings had tried to talk to her mother about handling her financial affairs after her mother's death, but her Mother was uncomfortable with the topic and would change the subject when Krysten brought it up.
Krysten's mother died unexpectedly, leaving her children clueless about her financial affairs. A delay in getting her Mother's death certificate caused Krysten to be unable to get access to information about her Mother's mortgage, which was past due. Krysten and her siblings also had to rummage through her Mother's home to try to find financial documents.
This article offers tips for speaking with loved ones about this difficult topic and it also highlights the importance of estate planning and making sure your legal representatives know where to find your estate planning and other important financial documents.
The author suggests a few websites for online storage of documents:
I haven't tried any of these websites and they all appear to have a fee, but they may be worth checking out.
You don't need to get fancy or high tech when it comes to being organized about providing information about your financial affairs. It's good to have a comprehensive list of your financial accounts and liabilities (checkings, savings, retirement, mortgage, credit cards, etc.) and other accounts (e-mail, facebook, twitter, etc.), along with passwords for online access for these accounts and instructions for what you would like done.
Feel free to use the digital asset instruction sheet I provide my clients:
For assets that aren't accessible online, make a list for loved ones, stating the institution, account number, and account type. Should something happen to you, it will be helpful for your loved ones to have everything organized in one place.
Another interesting resource the author of the article cited was the What If...Workbook, a comprehensive, easy to use guide to help get your affairs together in one convenient location. The workbook was created by Gwen Morgan, a hospice volunteer, and offers a fill-in-the-blank format. There is a fee for the workbook. I haven't seen the workbook, so I can't recommend it one way or the other.
You don't need to spend money to be organized. And there is no one right way to do it. The important thing is to have your financial and estate planning documents available to your loved ones in the event something happens to you.