What Your Family Needs to Know When You Die (Part 3)

When you are gone, your family will need to know a great deal about your personal finances.  They’ll need to know about your assets and your liabilities.  Today, we’ll look at assets.

Assets are the things you own that have value; perhaps generate income that can be used to support your dependents.  Your family will be helped tremendously if you assemble an inventory of your assets.  Consider the following …

  • Bank and Credit Union Accounts – do you have a checking account; savings account; certificate(s) of deposit; safe deposit box?  If you have any of these assets, list the name of the financial institution along with its address; account number(s); and, the name of the individual with whom you most frequently do business.
  • Stocks, Bonds, and Mutual Funds – if you have investment accounts, your family will need to know what assets your accounts hold; i.e., the names of any individual stocks, bonds, or mutual funds you own along with the name of the Registered Representative and firm with which you do business.
  • 401(k) – if your company offers a 401k … other qualified retirement plans include 403(b) plans, tax-sheltered annuity plans, and 457 deferred compensation plans … be sure to include the name of the plan administrator with the administrator’s address and telephone number; the name of the person at work who is your primary contact regarding the plan; and, a recent statement showing how the funds are invested and current balances.
  • Real Estate – obviously, the first item on this list would be your house.  Be sure to include a current estimate of the property’s value.  You can obtain a current value from a Realtor; or, do an on-line search by typing in the question “what is the current value of my house”.  Your search should yield a number of websites that will help you estimate its current market value.

The list of assets above is certainly not all-inclusive.  You may own art, collectibles, firearms, jewelry, and many other things.  Be sure to include these items in your list of assets along with their current market value.  If these items have been professionally appraised, include the most recent appraisal.

The days, weeks, and months following your death will be trying times for your family.  They will be grateful for any help you provide for them that will help them put together the financial pieces of their lives.

What Your Family Needs to Know When You Die (Part 2)

In the hours following your death, your family will be called upon to make several important decisions.  While no one likes to contemplate their own demise, family members will be grateful for any and all help you can give them in this emotionally trying time.  One of the greatest gifts that you can bequeath to your family is making your wishes known before the need arises.

  • What funeral home should be called to come and get your body?

In the minutes after your death, your family may be asked to schedule the immediate pick up of your body by mortuary.  If your death was sudden and unexpected, an autopsy may be required to determine the cause of death.  A post-mortem exam will delay the decision; but, eventually, the family will have to provide a response to this question.

While most funeral homes are honest and reputable, stories about unscrupulous establishments and their staff members preying on the bereaved family abound.  Establishing a working relationship with a trusted mortuary during your lifetime will spare your family this emotionally trying experience.

  • Do you want to be cremated or buried?

Every individual has his or her own personal beliefs on this subject.  If you have a preference, let your family know.  Tell someone … leave written instructions.  You can engage in what is known as pre-need planning and make these arrangements now; while you are healthy and have the ability to think in a clear, rational, and unemotional way.

  • Do you want a funeral/memorial service to be held?

A very close friend recently lost his father.  He told me that the greatest thing that his father had done for his mother was meeting with the local funeral director several years ago and plan everything that he wanted done.  When the man died, the family contacted the funeral home and the director simply pulled out the file and said, “here is what he wanted …” The instructions indicated –

  • The type of service that was to be conducted;
  • Who was to officiate;
  • What type of music was to be played; and, he specified hymns that had special meaning to both him and his family;
  • Who he wanted to present the eulogy;
  • Where his ashes were to be buried.

In fact, not only had all of the arrangements been made, the expenses had been pre-paid.  Clearly, the loss of a husband and father is devastating for any family.  However, this man relieved his family of an enormous burden and, as he had so many times before and in so many ways, demonstrated his love and concern for their well-being.

An Old Idea is New Again

Once upon a time, in a time and place long ago, Santa never bought presents for all of the good boys and girls with plastic money.  He only used green pieces of paper with pictures and numbers on them.  When he didn’t have enough green papers, Santa would tell the store what he wanted to buy and ask the store to hold it for him.  Each week, when he got paid, Santa would go to the store and give the manager some money as a partial payment on the toy that the store was holding.  When the toy was completely paid for, Santa would take it to the North Pole and have the elves wrap the present and put the name of the child for whom it was intended on the package.  The North Pole was a very happy place.

One day, an ogre gave Santa a piece of plastic and told him that he no longer had to take green paper to the store.  He could fill his sleigh with all the toys it could carry and not worry about the green papers.  In fact, he wouldn’t need green papers for a long time.  Over time, the North Pole became a very sad place.  There was never enough green paper and Santa received calls at all hours of the day and night from angry people demanding that he give them green papers immediately; lots of green papers that he didn’t have.

Finally, the head elf approached Santa with an idea … stop using the plastic … give the angry people green papers until all of the plastic bills were paid in full.  Then, ask the stores to hold the toys and allow him to bring a few pieces of green paper to the manager every week.  When the manager had received enough of the green papers, Santa could bring the toy back to the North Pole and have the elves wrap it in bright paper with shiny ribbons and bows.

On the day after Christmas, with no plastic swords hanging over his head threatening to make the coming year unpleasant, Santa could begin planning for the next year and getting presents ready for the good boys and girls.  The North Pole was once again a happy place and Santa could enjoy each day of the year as he looked forward to the next Christmas Eve.

Consumers Speak and Banks Respond – Debit Card Fees in Retreat

In early October, financial news outlets began reporting that a number of major banks planned to charge accountholders a fee every month for the privilege of using debit cards in order to access their own money.  At that time, I suggested that we all had choices including “voting with our feet” and taking our money and our business elsewhere.

Today, it was reported that four of these major banks had rescinded their plans to impose these fees on their customers.  One bank went so far as to state that it will refund fees that have already been collected.

While the banks have bowed to consumer pressure, it is no secret that they will continue to look for new ways to collect money from their customers in an effort to replace income streams that were denied to them in recent bank regulation laws.  Consumer need to stay vigilant.  Watch communications from your bank carefully.  When your bank announces plans to impose new fees on you and your account, let them know how you feel.  This retreat clearly shows that the banks DO listen to their customer complaints and respond to them.

What Your Family Needs to Know When You Die (Part 1)

My friend David was talking this evening about his wife being on a trip and how it left him with all of the domestic responsibilities; including, paying the bills.  He expressed gratitude that very few bills had come in while she was gone; but, that the few that did come in really caught him off guard.

The first to come was a credit card bill and he actually came across it by accident.  It did not arrive in the mail.  It came via e-mail.  No problem, he figured, he’d go ahead and take care of it.  After all, he knew how to write a check.

So, he opened the e-mail bill and learned that his wife had elected to not only receive the bills electronically; she had also elected to pay them through the internet.  No problem … he clicked on the “pay me now” button and found out that he needed a password.  Now, if only he knew what his wife had selected as the password!

In the ensuing days, David learned that this was not an isolated incident.  If fact, it was the norm.

Suffice it to say that David has discovered one of the first things that family members need to know when someone dies.  What are the monthly bills; how are they paid; what are the websites, userids, and passwords that are used to pay them?

In the coming days, we’ll explore other things that family members need to know when the unthinkable happens.