by Gary Foreman
It happens every day. Someone becomes disabled or dies. Their caretaker or executor begins to take over financial affairs but doesn't know what to look for or where to find it. They can waste both time and money finding out what their loved one knew but didn't tell anyone.
Why not avoid that problem? Sharing the information that your executor/personal rep will need doesn't cost anything but a little time now. And, you'll save them many more hours when they begin to handle your financial matters.
You don't need anything fancy. A simple handwritten list or doc file can provide all that's needed. Here's what you'll want to include.
List all bank accounts. Include where the bank branch is located, how the account is titled and the account number. You don't need to indicate a balance if you want to keep your affairs somewhat private.
List any brokerage accounts. Include the name, phone number and location of the broker. Also list the title of the account and the account number. Again, no balance is needed.
Any mutual fund accounts. Again, include account numbers, how the account is titled and phone number for the fund.
Retirement accounts. The location, account number and contact info for any 401k, IRA, pension or other retirement accounts.
Life insurance policies can be especially hard for executors to track down. Often they don't send statements, so they can easily be overlooked. Again, your personal rep will need the name of the insured, policy number and the phone number of the insurance company that issued the policy.
Due you have any annuities? If so, you'll need to list the insurance company, their phone number and the policy number of the annuity.
Many retirees have a safety deposit box at a local bank. Let your executor know where to find both the box and the key. If you want them to have immediate access to the box they need to be listed on the bank records. Don't assume that the bank will let them go into the box to recover your will that names them as the executor.
Don't forget any storage units you may have. It's unlikely that your personal rep will know the location of the unit. Make sure you include any appropriate passwords/combinations and location of keys.
Do you have any hidden storage spots in your house or on your property? Don't assume that your personal rep will find the trap door under the kitchen sink. Tell them where to look.
Don't assume that your executor will know the value of any collections, jewelry, antiques or artwork you may have. If you don't alert them something valuable could be sold at a yard sale for pennies.
Let them know of any important papers you might have. Especially if they're not in a bank safe box. Home and auto titles, payment books, IOUs and any other documents they'll need to have.
Add any loans or mortgages. Include who to contact and how frequently payments need to be made.
A list of your credit card accounts. Including those with a zero balance. All of them will need to be closed.
The location and date of your will or trust. Without proper documentation, they will not be able to act on your behalf.
The location of any medical directives you may desire. Often there's no time to find a missing document when you're incapacitated and needing medical attention.
Finally remember that your caretaker or executor/personal rep will need proper legal authority to act for you. If you're incapacitated they'll need a power of attorney that you executed prior to becoming disabled.
Once you die that power becomes invalid. They'll need to be appointed as executor of the estate or successor trustee of the trust.
The time to do the proper paperwork is now. Before it's needed. If you wait too long to provide the needed information to your caretaker or executor you'll make life much harder for them.
Gary Foreman is a former financial planner who edits The Dollar Stretcher - a site dedicated to "living better...for less". The site features an active section for baby boomers and a newsletter specifically for boomers. For more information on the preretirement checklist.