When planning for the worst, some obvious topics are often overlooked. This is a morbid topic, but it is critical to prepare a plan and think about creating documents that will help with the inevitable. Here are some steps you can take to help insure that your loved ones are not lost during their time of grief.
Make sure to have an UPDATED will or trust in place; not the one you think you did 20 years ago before you had your last child. Updating either or both of those documents will help delegate where and to whom you want things to go. A will or trust will mitigate living relatives from fighting over your estate and will allow them proper grieving. A trust often accelerates your family’s access to the estate and avoids probate.
Create a list of emergency contacts, service providers (Doctors, vets etc.), memberships, banking information, investment and 401k plan information, life, disability, long-term care and health insurance companies, subscriptions and any other vendor or company used. Include in the list the name, phone number, address and primary contact or website with password. If there are any policies or paperwork that was received make sure to save a digital copy in case it is destroyed or lost and let a family member know where to find those documents such as a safe or safety deposit box.
To help, list out all monthly income and expenses first, this will help identify what companies need to be contacted. Gas, electric, water, cable and internet, mortgage, cell phone, credit cards, prescriptions, dividend checks etc. are just a few that should be included.
Something that is often overlooked are email, social media, snail mail accounts, and PO Boxes. When a person passes the mail does not stop nor do the social media accounts. You can cancel or have mail forwarded by completing a change of address form or go in to your local post office and have them help with forwarding and closing a PO Box if one existed. Social media and email are a little trickier because we all have at least one account, but some have five or ten! Most accounts will require you to have the email and password associated with the account and then you can go through the process of deleting the account. An awesome feature though that some sites offer (Facebook) is an option to memorialize this account. For people who want to have that as a keepsake this is a great option.
Make sure to check in on your Social Security benefits not only for yourself but for your family that is left behind. Sometimes we wrongfully assume credits are on our statements and come to find out the government did not account for them properly. For example, Derek’s was calculated wrong when he was deployed over multiple years yet it was the government paying him. You can go straight to SSA.gov, create an account and keep track, this is especially helpful since the Social Security Administration cut back on sending out paper notices. Save a copy of your Social Security statement digitally and print one out to keep with all the other documents.
Stored credit card information is something to check on as well, such as Amazon. If you go in and remove that saved card information there is less likelihood of it being charged for something and it can help prevent identity theft during the transition when predators are at a peak.
Search for “missing” money. Our loved ones might have opened an account that they stopped using after college or after they bought new furniture. There are plenty of tools out there to help determine if you have any accounts that were lost or overlooked.
Having the following handy will help make this a smooth process for your loved ones:
- Store passwords in a safe place that can be accessed if something unfortunate happens. Having those passwords will help when trying to close accounts.
- Make sure to have multiple copies of the death certificate and a digital copy. Many companies require a certificate to be able to execute closing or transferring ownership of your account.
- Have copies of documents stored in a safe place and in a digital format and make sure family members know where they are.
There are a ton of resources out there to help you prepare for this event in life like Everplans, Legal Zoom etc. Completing some of these items will help make the transition from you to your family members easier and will allow them to grieve for you instead of curse you.
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