Senior couple, adult children talking and drinkingIn my lifetime I have become caretaker of the finances for 2 family members. Fortunately for me, both were forthcoming about their financial status, went over their financial wishes and instructions and left things in order so that my job was easy. 

Looking back, I see how unusual this was and also a blessing. Like anyone dealing with the loss of a loved one, there is more than enough emotional grieving to handle. The last thing you need on top of that is confusion about the finances. 

You can make that journey easier for adult children by being organized and self-disclosing. The 7 areas where you need to be prepared, and how to prepare are as follows:

 

Personal Data:

What to disclose – social security number, passwords, safety deposit box, home security alarm codes. 

How to make it easier –

  • Add your children to the signature card for your safety deposit box
  • Create a “Critical Information” sheet and share it with your children in hard copy or through the cloud (DropBox, Google Docs, etc.)

 

Contact Information:

What to disclose – Names, phone numbers, postal and email addresses for all of your key advisors

How to make it easier

  • Introduce them to your key advisors such as your estate attorney and financial advisor.

 

Location:

What to disclose – Make sure your children know where your important documents and papers are stored, such as, wills, power of attorney, taxes, military records, marriage certificates, and deeds. 

How to make it easier

  • Make sure you have a filing system that makes sense, and walk them through the system. 

 

Savings, Investments, Pensions and Retirement Accounts:

What to disclose – A complete list of your accounts, where they are held, account numbers, and contact information. 

How to make it easier – 

  • Make sure your beneficiary information is up-to-date.
  • Consider Pay on Death accounts as appropriate.
  • Consolidate as many accounts as possible. 

 

Insurance

What to disclose – A complete list of your insurance policy numbers by type with the carriers and contact information noted (i.e. Life, Long Term Care, Disability, Umbrella, etc.)

How to make is easier

  • Keep your beneficiaries up-to-date.
  • Review your coverage every 5 to 7 years or when a major life event occurs.
  • Give children specific instructions about long term care directives. 

 

Wills and Trusts

What to disclose – The location of your wills and trusts, power of attorney, living will, and medical directives. Your estate attorney contact info. A detailed accounting of how you would like your personal effects handled and your wishes in terms of a funeral, memorial services, or life celebration. 

How to make it easier – 

  • For complex estates you should create a summary of key provisions. 
  • Go through your will and trust with your Executor. Don’t just skim through, be detailed. 
  • If you are leaving your assets to your children in some way other than equally you need to talk to them frankly about this. Otherwise, your decision could change their ongoing relationship forever. 
  • Add your children to those who can get information for your physician. 

 

Real Estate and other assets:

What to disclose – Location of deeds, leases, titles, and other important documents. 

How to make it easier – 

  • Use joint titling if appropriate for a smooth asset transition

 

Many of us have hang-ups and taboos when it comes to talking about money. As we age, these do not serve our adult children or us. Leaving your children guessing about your finances, insurance, and estate creates unnecessary worry and stress. Take a leap and cross the uncomfortable divide. Speak clearly to your adult children about your wished. You will both be glad you did.