In my line of work, I have the unfortunate job to deal with the passing of someone’s spouse, parent, or sibling. I see in these moments of grief I know how, if the details aren’t thought of ahead of time, the pain can be compounded with the frustration of trying to navigate through the messiness of financial matters not thought of ahead of time.
Recently, this aspect of my job indeed hit home, with the passing of my mother-in-law. My father-in-law not only has to deal with the grief of losing his childhood sweetheart, but also with all the details of their financial life.
It soon became evident that my father-in-law did not know the details of their finances (he didn’t even know the password to the checking account). And because of this, I thought that I would take the time to share what I advise my clients to do regarding the preparation of what is inevitable.
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 names and phone numbers of their advisors for each of those accounts. For the checking, savings, CD’s, 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 yet 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 has 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 having 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.