Some years ago I got a call from a friend.  Her husband never came back from work.  He left the night before for the hospital to cover the night shift, and was supposed to be back home at 6 am.  She called the hospital and nobody gave her any information.  She went there just to meet with a police officer.  Her husband had passed away from a heart attack at 42 years old.  She was devastated.

Now, add to that situation the fact that she hadn’t been involved with the family finances.  He was the one in charge.  So she was completely lost, and the load of all the financial issues to deal with just made her life miserable.

Reality is this is not a strange episode, this story repeats itself everyday.  Lesson:  we need to be prepared for the unexpected, because, it happens….

Here is a sample of the planning documents you should consider to have at hand, all are basic definitions from dictionaries, some of these topics have been explored in other entries:

Living Will: a written statement detailing a person’s desires regarding their medical treatment in circumstances in which they are no longer able to express informed consent, especially an advance directive.

Durable Power of Attorney: A power of attorney is a legal document that gives someone you choose the power to act in your place. In case you ever become mentally incapacitated, you’ll need what are known as “durable” powers of attorney for medical care and finances.

Legal Guardian for your children: A legal guardian is a person who has the legal authority (and the corresponding duty) to care for the personal and property interests of another person, called a ward.

Last will and testament: A will or testament is a legal document by which a person, the testator, expresses his or her wishes as to how his or her property is to be distributed at death, and names one or more persons, the executor, to manage the estate until its final distribution.

Revocable trust: A revocable trust is a trust whereby provisions can be altered or canceled dependent on the grantor. During the life of the trust, income earned is distributed to the grantor, and only after death does property transfer to the beneficiaries. Read our blog on Trust

Irrevocable trust: An irrevocable trust can’t be modified or terminated without the permission of the beneficiary. The grantor, having transferred assets into the trust, effectively removes all of his rights of ownership to the assets and the trust. This is the opposite of a revocable trust, which allows the grantor to modify the trust.

Prenuptial agreement: An agreement made by a couple before they marry concerning the ownership of their respective assets should the marriage fail.  Read our post on Prenups

Mortgage information: What is the monthly payment, where are the bank documents, are they in a safe deposit box?, is the payment automatically deducted from your account?

All financial accounts information: savings, checking, investments, etc.  With what banks do you work, who is the contact person for each account.

Life Insurance :  Do you and your husband had a life insurance?  Where is the information?  Who should you contact in case of need.

Internet passwords:  Nowadays our lives are on the internet. You want to keep your privacy but somebody  needs to know how to get to certain accounts managed through the internet.  And what about social media?  Do you want your Facebook account to remain active if something happens to you?  You can always include this information in your will in case you do not want to share it.

Professionals you should know:  Who is your accountant? Who is your attorney? Who handles your insurances? Who are your bankers?.  At least try to meet with them in person once, even if you are not involved in the daily activities, meet them.

Better safe than sorry, do you agree?

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