What Your Family Needs to Know When You Die (Part 4)

The assets you listed in the last installment are only half of your personal balance sheet that your family will need when you are gone.  The other half are your liabilities … the debts you owe to others.

  • Mortgage – for most families, the mortgage on the family home will be the largest debt that is owed.  Your family will need to know the name of the mortgage lender and its address; the loan number; and, the current balance owed on the loan.  If there is more than one mortgage on the property, be sure to list any other lenders and the appropriate account numbers.  Be sure to list the monthly payment that is due on each mortgage.

This would also be a good place to list any life insurance policies that you may have purchased to provide the funds to pay off the outstanding mortgage(s).

  • Auto Loan(s) – provide your family with the name of the lender along with the lender’s address; the account number; the current balance owed on the loan; and, the monthly payment that is due.  If you have purchased any loan cancellation insurance, you should list it here including the name of the insurance company, its address, and any person with whom you regularly have contact.

You should also list here the name of the company that insures your vehicle(s) along with the name of your agent and the policy number so that the company can be notified of your death.

  • Credit Cards and Personal Loans – in a perfect world, no money would be owed on unsecured debts.  However, few of us live in “Perfect World, USA” so list all of your personal/signature loans, credit card accounts, addresses for each account, the account numbers, and a current balance on the account.  Also, indicate where you keep your current statements and balances owed on each account.

A person’s death does not wipe out any debts that are owed.  Creditors have the right, and they will exercise it, to make demands for payment against your estate.  Sadly, there are some who will attempt to take advantage of survivors’ grief and confusion to make money by making claims against the estate for debts that do not exist.  By leaving a clear inventory of debts owed, you can protect your family against these bogus claims.

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.