"Thanks for taking care of my dad" said the young man across the table. His dad had just lost his wife of 50 years. On Monday they came in to handle the accounts that she left behind. Turns out the husband was not in charge of the money. It was his wife. I could tell this was overwhelming for him. "I was supposed to go first" he remarked.
On Tuesday, another client came in with his daughter. She happens to be an accountant. "Laura, my dad is confused and having a difficult time understanding what would be best with these accounts." I could tell they had gone around in circles and were both exhausted. He was married for 60 years and now facing decisions on his own seemed daunting. And guess what? His wife was the money manager in the relationship.
This part of planning is the part that many people don't often think about. Where to keep your hard earned money is a big deal. It requires the guidance and help of people who do this planning all day every day. Equally as important is navigating how to help those left behind with the task of respecting your legacy. And honoring your wishes.
Some financial advisors don't have the time or inclination to sit down, look your loved one in the eyes and assist them through the journey of inheritance. They can open accounts and invest your money. And often times you may not even see them again.
Here is what you need to ask when working with a financial firm in order to avoid unnecessary agravation upon the passing of you or your partner.
1) What is the process my wife/family/friend needs to go through in the event of my passing? If the answer is to call the carrier....run. You not only will be caught up in long hold times you will also be overwhelmed with paperwork.
2) Is this account able to bypass probate and go directly to my beneficiary? You want this to be yes.
3) How is follow up handled after I submit my paperwork? The ideal situation is that someone, meaning a person, will be in touch. The chances are good that it will probably be up to your beneficiary to follow up. Again, during this difficult time it can be stressful and people often forget to follow up because there are so many life changes going on. The goal here is for someone to keep YOU updated.
When a loved one passes away getting their estate in order is stressful. I know because when my dad passed my siblings and I had a slew of emotions. We had to handle his financial matters as well as his personal belongings. Luckily, for my sister and brother I am in the financial industry and was able to handle our situation. But I do realize most people are not in my shoes.
My final thoughts on this are to assure your family you have a point person at the financial firm you are currently using. Let your family know the name of this person, how to reach them and what your wishes will be. In addition, let the financial firm know your wishes as well.
And of course, if you have any questions around this sensitive matter and would like to chat please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call our office at 203-372-4442. I am extension 105.
Meanwhile, I hope you all live a wonderful long healthy life.