Practical Steps to Deal with Financial Matters Before It’s Too Late
by Yvonne Ortega
Take practical steps to deal with financial matters before it’s too late. Don’t assume you’ll have advance notice of your death or that of a loved one. Those left behind can have financial struggles that could have been avoided if they’d been dealt with earlier.
Home and Home Mortgage Insurance
First, know whose name is on the assets. Do not assume it will be the surviving spouse. One woman thought her name was on the title to the home and that they had home mortgage insurance. When her husband died, she discovered her name wasn’t on the deed, and they didn’t have home mortgage insurance. It took a year to get the legal matters settled. Meanwhile, she struggled to buy groceries and needed help to make the mortgage payments.
Find out about the title to the home and home mortgage insurance while your spouse, elderly parent or other loved one is alive. Hire an attorney and do everything you can to plan for the unexpected.
Get legal copies of those documents and know where they are. You will miss your loved one. However, if you plan ahead, you can lessen the stress you’ll feel after your loved one is gone.
Second, when it comes to bank accounts, make a list of all accounts. If the names of both spouses aren’t on the accounts, the bank could freeze them. Do you know whose name or names are on the personal, business and savings accounts? Again, do not assume anything.
Imagine the shock a woman felt when she found out her late husband had a secret affair with another woman. To make matters worse, the name of the other woman was on some of his accounts.
Third, if you must handle the accounts, do you know how to write a check, balance the checkbook or manage your finances online? One newly-widowed mother didn’t know how. Her daughter had to leave her job and husband for a month to go out of state to get her mother’s paperwork and finances in order. Because the daughter is a woman of integrity, it worked out well, but it could have been a disaster.
All Other Assets and Accounts
Fourth, do you have a list of all other assets and accounts? What about investments, such as stocks and bonds? For online access, do you know the login name and password for each account? If you don’t, get them while you can. If you lack computer skills, take a class or two and learn.
What about the names and contact information of the accountant, bookkeeper or tax service used each year and that of the lawyer and realtor? Have you, your spouse or other loved one filed state (if applicable) and federal taxes each year? Do you know where copies of those tax records are?
Loans and Credit Card Debt
Next, what about loans and credit card debt? Once again, you need a list of all loans and credit card debt with names and contact information.
Without a list of all that information in safe keeping, life after the death of your loved one will be more stressful than it needed to be if you’d prepared ahead of time.
Some may perceive your actions as being nosey or controlling, but you are being wise, especially if you have young children at home.
The Will and Life Insurance
Where is the will? What about life insurance? Please don’t be like the widow who found out after her young husband’s unexpected death that he had cancelled his life insurance policy six months before he died. He left her with three young children, a new home and huge house payments. He not only left her without life insurance but also without home mortgage insurance. Maybe he thought he was too young to die and could use the money elsewhere.
Family Heirlooms and Other Valuables
What about antiques, family heirlooms, jewelry, musical instruments, paintings and the like? Does a written plan exist for the distribution of them? If so, where is it? Please don’t count on advance notice of your loved one’s death or of your own.
Storage of Important Paperwork
Where do you store important paperwork? In a safety deposit box at the bank or a fire safe and water-resistant or waterproof vault in your own home? Remember that a fire, a tornado or a flood can destroy all your valuable documents.
After the death of a loved one, handling financial matters without detailed preparation is a nightmare that can lead to survivor squabbles and possible financial chaos. Do the hard work of preparation before it’s too late. Make sure everything is spelled out in black and white.
Don’t expect all family members to be kind, patient and trustworthy. If they weren’t that way before, they won’t suddenly change for the better. They may become worse. Distant relatives who had little contact with the family may show up to grab all they can.
Siblings may bicker and turn against one another. If that happens, their lack of conscience and disregard for the wishes of the parents or other deceased loved ones will break your heart.
Pray and pray hard as you take practical steps to deal with financial matters before it’s too late. Have your prayer partner, prayer team or prayer chain intercede for you as you meet with a lawyer, financial adviser and others who will help you.
God bless you as you take those practical steps.
Copyright © by Yvonne Ortega August 2018
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