Are Your Family Finances Top Secret?

This week, I attended a funeral for a much-loved gentleman. He adored his wife so very much and spoiled her every day. She never had to worry about the bills or their investments. However, now that he is gone, she is left in the dark about everything regarding their personal finances. This scenario is all too common, especially for the senior generation.

When the dining room table is covered in condolence cards and medical bills, the last thing a widowed spouse needs to worry about is how to access a password protected financial account. Or worse, have to wonder if funds will cover incoming bills. Fortunately, with some planning, there are steps we can take now, to ensure our loved ones can easily access the information they need and avoid this unintentional oversight.

Two years ago, I attended a financial conference and met a man who markets an estate book. The sole purpose of this book was to record account numbers, balances, mortgage information, contact names, retirement account institutions and everything in-between for those left to sort through the financial matters of the deceased. What a fantastic gift to leave to your heirs! A book with every account, every contact and every balance written down in black and white just waiting to ease the frustrations of the bewildered family.

So add this to your to-do list today! Get a notebook and make a list of everything that has to do with your personal financial life. And if you are a business owner, make sure you do the same for the business!

  • Bank Account – Institution, address, account numbers, passwords, balance range, Payable on Death names, phone number
  • Retirement Accounts – Institution, address, phone number, password, beneficiary, balance range
  • Insurance Policies- Company and agent names, phone numbers, account numbers, amounts, beneficiaries. Include in this list, life, home, car, umbrella, medical and any policy you own.
  • Stocks – Brokerage firm, phone number, account number, stocks held, amount of stock, beneficiary
  • Employer – Company contact, phone number, employee number. List any life insurance, stock options, survivor benefits and anything else that would be needed. Some of this may overlap
  • Credit cards – account numbers, passwords, phone numbers
  • Password to computers and any relevant accounts such as online banking or Quicken
  • Mortgages – Institution, Accounts, phone numbers, balances, location of deeds
  • Auto Loans – Loan Holder, account number, phone numbers, balances, location of titles
  • Any Loans – Loan Holder, account number, phone number, balance
  • Bonds – Bond Issuer, account number, phone number, bond amount
  • Will – Location of will, name of executor
  • Funeral instructions
  • Safety Deposit box – bank, location of key, contents
  • Any hidden cash or jewelry in the house

This list is not final. You can probably add to the list. And once you get started, you’ll realize just how complex and complicated our financial lives can be and how important it is that you leave the key to unlock the door to your financial world for your loved ones.