Henry Ford once said, “Before everything else, getting ready is the secret of success.” This phrase can be applied to many aspects of life, but why are we so hesitant to apply it to death? Yes. I said it, “DEATH!”
Just like taxes, the passage of time and the changing of the seasons, death is inevitable. I have found in my 20-plus years as a financial advisor that the more clients are open to talking about planning for their demise, the easier the process becomes.
Your family member(s) who bear the responsibility of managing your affairs after you are gone will be more than happy to receive a love letter from you. Not the mushy kind that many will text, email or mail this Valentine’s Day, but correspondence that will prepare them to handle your business without unnecessary roadblocks.
Your love letter basically contains information about your assets, liabilities and any wishes you may have after your passing or incapacity. While it is strongly suggested that you sit with a financial advisor and an attorney to ensure that your love letter is complete, here are a few steps to get you started:
Gather the following information/personal documents and store them in a safe place:
- Insurance policies
- Property deeds
- Medical information
- Retirement plan (ex. 401K)
- Employer info
- Bank/credit union account info
- Pin numbers/passwords
- Contact information for your attorney(s), accountant and financial advisor
- List of specific instructions on how you would like your affairs handled
Sounds like a lot of work? Well, it is, but once you have taken these steps, you merely have to update your files periodically to ensure they remain current.
Identify someone you trust and make them aware of the location of the above information. Whether it’s a spouse, child, sibling, close friend or even your financial advisor, someone needs to know how to access your personal documents. Perhaps they’re in a safety deposit box or a secure location in your home. Either way, if you don’t share this information, your assets may not be distributed the way you desire.
Write out specific instructions for loved ones to follow. This is where the love letter comes in. Instead of just leaving a pile of papers for your family to sort through, write out exactly what you want them to do with your estate. Much of this information will be in your will but a personal note from you accompanied by your signature can make the difficulty of your death a bit more bearable. Your loved ones can find comfort in knowing that they are honoring your last wishes.
Don’t delay! Start writing your love letter today. Tomorrow is not promised.
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