In Death, The Details Become Essential

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Being Prepared is not just for the Boy Scouts.

As an advisor, I occasionally have the unfortunate job of dealing with the passing of someone’s spouse, parent, or sibling. If the details aren’t thought of ahead of time, the pain can be compounded by the frustration of trying to navigate through the messiness of financial matters not thought of ahead of time.

I advise my clients to keep a list of all their accounts (checking, savings, CD, annuities, life, mutual funds, etc.) in their trust folder. If they don’t have a trust and own any property, that is the first thing they must do) along with the names and phone numbers of their advisors for each of those accounts. For the checking, savings, CDs, etc., those accounts should have a POD (Payable On Death), as well as having their passwords for those accounts given to someone they trust.

The reason I say giving the password to someone they trust, you ask? What happens if the mortgage needs to be paid and the death certificate is not available yet? Even though the account may have the POD, until the death certificate is produced, only those on the account have the authority to access the accounts to take care of any necessities.

When it comes to a spouse having to deal with the financial decisions, the grief can cloud their choices, and that is why having a plan written out and discussed with the family and the advisor can take away one less decision to make since it has already been made. This is especially true when it comes to planning the funeral.

All the proper planning in the world will not be beneficial if the information cannot be found during the crucial days and weeks following the loss of a loved one or not have a written-out plan and discussed with an unbiased advisor and attorney to help carry out those wishes. While the topic is maybe challenging to discuss, it is essential.

Here are some tips for pre-planning.

  1. Death certificate: This document is typically issued by a medical professional or coroner and officially certifies the cause of death.
  2. Will: If the deceased had a will, it outlines how their assets will be distributed and who will be in charge of carrying out their wishes.
  3. Trust documents: If the deceased had a trust, the trust document outlines how assets will be distributed and who will manage the trust.
  4. Life insurance policy: The policy outlines the benefits and who the beneficiaries are.
  5. Marriage certificate: If the deceased was married, the marriage certificate may be needed to prove their relationship with their spouse.
  6. Social Security card: The Social Security Administration will need to be notified of the death, and the deceased’s Social Security number will need to be included on certain forms.
  7. Military discharge papers: If the deceased served in the military, their discharge papers may

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