Planning Ahead: Details to Share With Loved Ones While You’re Healthy

Posted April 20, 2010 in Uncategorized by

I was paying my bills the other day and had a morbid thought. Most of my account statements arrive electronically and I have password-protected my computer. I’m happy to be saving trees and taking the right steps to secure my information, but should I die or become incapacitated, my family would have a tough time identifying my assets and knowing what bills to pay.

Culturally, most Americans don’t like to think about death—and we procrastinate! How else to explain the surveys that show only 35 percent of Americans have a will?

It makes me realize that I should take the time to share some basic details with my family in case of an emergency. Have you had such a conversation with your family members?

Information to Share

Now, while you’re healthy, have a discussion with at least one person you trust and tell them where they can find important pieces of information should you pass away.

Information to be shared includes:

Estate Planning Information

  • Do you have a will and where is it kept? Who, if anyone, has power of attorney?
  • Do you have a life insurance policy?
  • Have you made funeral and burial arrangements or purchased a cemetery plot?
  • Who should be contacted in the event of your death?

Financial Information

  • Where can your family find a list of your assets, including bank accounts, retirement accounts and savings bonds?
  • Where can your family find copies of past tax returns, bank statements and other financial information?
  • How can your family gain access to your computer, if is password-protected, and to any online financial accounts?
  • Where can your family find a list of bills that are paid on a regular basis?
  • If you’re self-employed, where are your business records (including client lists, outstanding invoices and other financial records) kept?

Property Information

  • If you live alone, who has a copy of the keys to your home?
  • Do you have a safety deposit box, where is it, and where do you keep the key?
  • Where do you keep the title(s) to your car(s) or the deed to any property you own?
  • Do you have anything stored in an offsite storage facility?

Digital Data

  • If you’re active in any online communities, such as Facebook or bulletin boards, should those friends and acquaintances be notified?
  • What is the password to your email accounts?

If you are uncomfortable having this discussion in person, put it in writing and either give the document to someone you trust or tell them where in your home the document can be found. If it makes you more comfortable, ask them not to open and read the information except in an emergency.

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