Are you the person in your relationship who lets your partner/spouse handle all the finances in your household? Do you have absolutely no idea where your life savings is kept? Like no idea about all the accounts you jointly own or will own should your partner/spouse pass? If the answer is yes, you are not alone. I am about to tell you a story that demonstrates why it is vital that you get a crash course on where your money is currently being held, who the advisors are on the accounts and what the plan would be should your partner pass.
Yesterday on a plane headed back from Florida I sat next to a lovely 75 year old woman. I will call her Linda. She turned to me and just because told me how her husband, Harry, had died last October. He was 15 years older than her and a successful Real Estate Investor. She told me on the day he passed the nurse brought her his jewelry, his wallet and his cell phone. As the nurse was handing her the cell phone, her husband's youngest daughter (in her forties) snatched it out of the nurses hand. When the phone was returned to Linda a few days later it was stripped of all her deceased husband's contacts and the screen picture of Linda and Harry was replaced with a picture of Harry's grandsons. It was at this point Linda knew she would be headed into a terrible battle. Harry's 3 adult children had decided to contest his estate. Linda told me she had no time to grieve the loss of her husband of 40 years. She told me she found out Harry had 5 times the amount of money she thought he had. She found out he had real estate and bank accounts that she never knew existed. She would be worth millions and the step children were not happy. They lawyered up and have been in a dispute for the past 9 months. Over the 40 years that they were married Harry's children were nothing but kind to her. She was blown away by the amount of hate and greed spewed her way. All because she never took an interest or desire to understand their financial picture.
Linda's situation is not foreign to me. I meet many people in long term relationships where one assumes the money role and the other stays in the dark. This is not a good game plan! Linda's story is a perfect example of how not communicating with your partner can lead to dire consequences. I am in the financial/insurance industry and I realize some of the jargon and mumbo jumbo gets intimidating. What people, usually women, need to realize is they don't need to be a licensed financial professional. They just need to understand a few bullet points when it comes to where there life savings is being kept.
1. What banking institutions have your accounts, where the statements are kept and who if anyone is the contact at the bank.
2. What brokerage accounts are there....if any. Brokerage accounts hold stocks and bonds. Think Morgan Stanley, Fidelity & Charles Schwabb. How often do you get statements & where are they. Who is the Financial Advisor on the account and their contact information? Is there online access to the account (s) and what are the passwords/sign-on info?
3. What insurance do you and your partner have...Life Insurance, Long Term Care Insurance, Annuities and who is the contact for those accounts? Also, know the beneficiaries of the account.
4. What Real Estate Holdings do you and your partner own OR are there any you will inherit? Who do you contact in the event of your partner's passing? Have your partner show you any documents that you will need.
5. What is the balance of all your bank accounts and do you have access to them immediately in case your partner passes?
6. What credit cards does your partner have and what are the outstanding balances? Get online access information as well.
These are the basic financial bullet points that can prevent you from being blind sided in the event that your spouse/partner passes.
Losing a loved one is devastating. And it can bring out the UGLY in people when it comes to inheritance. It may be impossible to avoid every bit of ugly but at least you will be familiar with what is going on with your financial situation.
As Linda was leaving the plane she said "Laura, use me as an example to your clients. I knew nothing for 40 years and now I am overwhelmed with all this information. I think I have cried once over Harry's death but I cry daily over what his children are putting me through."
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