In Case Something Happens – Food for Thought This Thanksgiving
Eileen St. Pierre, The Everyday Financial Planner
We’ve given thanks over this holiday weekend for our many blessings. Spend a little extra time before you get all wrapped up with Christmas shopping to do something for those you love. When it comes to your finances, it is important to have them in order in case something happens to you. Here are three tips to help you out:
Make sure your family can access your accounts.
My husband and I keep a running list of all our accounts, usernames, and passwords. It’s currently three pages long and could use updating. But the important thing is that all this information is in one place. You never know when a family member may have to pay a bill, answer an important email, or post a message on Facebook for you. A former colleague of mine whose son was killed in the line of duty in Iraq finally got into one of his accounts after three months of trying different passwords.
Keep your beneficiaries up-to-date.
The proceeds of any account that has a beneficiary designation will go directly to that beneficiary regardless of what is stated in a will. That asset will not go through probate. So make sure your beneficiaries are up-to-date. I think every HR department has a story of an ex who got the employee’s retirement benefits because the beneficiary form was never updated after a divorce.
Get your estate plans in order.
Every time I give an estate planning workshop, my audience members fear the probate process the most. Many states have an expedited probate process. The key is reducing the amount of assets in your estate subject to probate. It may not be as bad as you think. My column Understanding (and Avoiding) Probate has more information.
If you have minor children, you need to have a will. A will is the only place where you can name guardians for your kids. If you have a more complex family situation, you may also want to consider a trust because they can be customized (at a cost). Read my column Wills vs. Trusts for more details.
Other important legal documents to consider (depending on your situation) include:
- Advanced Directive for Health Care – includes a Living Will
- Do Not Resuscitate Form
- Power of Attorney
These forms vary by state. A good place to look for them is your state’s Department of Human Services.
Want to learn more? Join us for a free 30-minute webinar In Case Something Happens on December 1 at 3:30 Central Time. Click HERE to register.
Visit my Estate Planning page for additional free resources.