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Have You Taken Care of Everything?

As Seen in the Fort Bend Independent

Talking about death can be difficult and talking about death and finances is just about impossible. But if you really want to ease your family’s burden after you’re gone, make sure you’ve filled some of these common gaps.

Wills
You have a will; it’s up-to-date and lists all your specific bequests. But do your beneficiaries know where your will is?

Having a copy of your will around the house is easy, but can lead to problems if you’re the only one who knows where it is. Someone besides you should know exactly where it is and be able to access it. Some good, safe places include:

• In a safe deposit box – as long as someone else knows in what bank and has access privileges and a key.

• With a lawyer or legal office – again, as long as someone besides you knows who and how to contact.

• With your financial advisor – having a copy of your will can help your advisor to transition your accounts as well as providing a resource for your family.

• With your church or pastor – an often overlooked resource, your pastor is one of the first people your family will call.

More than one copy can be a good idea as well. Just make sure you put new copies in each location any time you make changes.

Legal Documents
Legal documents can become very important if there are questions about how your estate is to be settled. It’s a good idea to have copies of all legal documents kept with every copy of your will. Be sure to include at least the following:

• Birth or adoption records/certificates.

• Marriage certificates.

• Divorce, separation or annulment records.

• Deeds of ownership.

Bank/Financial Accounts
A bank manager related a story about a man with numerous accounts. After he died, it was discovered that even though his wife was his sole beneficiary, he had never added her to a single account, and she was unable to make the mortgage payments, let alone pay for his funeral.

Wills have to be probated and insurance claims have to be processed before funds are released. Don’t assume your survivors will be able to access your funds immediately; it is best to have your spouse, one of your children, or even the executor of your estate already named as an access person on at least one account so final expenses are met and your bills continue to be paid on time.

Also, it’s important to give your access person a record of all your financial accounts:

• A woman received a call from an old friend in her home town; the friend had seen the name of the woman’s father on a bank list of unclaimed accounts. Because her father had died a few years earlier, the woman contacted the bank and by providing the necessary documents, was able to claim the money. What started as a savings account opened for her when she was an infant was worth more than $100,000 when she closed the account.

• After the death of her husband, a woman received a letter from one of his former employers, a company he had worked for before they were married. The Human Resources manager had seen his obituary in the newspaper and was contacting her regarding his 401(k) account, which had remained at the company after he left. Even though no additional funds had been deposited, the account had grown to almost $500,000 due to compounded interest.

Millions of dollars left in forgotten accounts are listed in newspapers and journals across the country almost daily. Take the time to review your history and account for every financial account you’ve ever held.

Powers of Attorney
No one wants to think about being incapacitated to a point that he or she is unable to make decisions. But just as important as naming your beneficiaries is naming who you want to be in charge of your finances if you can’t be. Powers of attorney range from the general to the specific; you can decide how much control you give and to whom. In certain cases, if there is no power of attorney, the state can grant guardianship to the person it deems is best suited; this may not be the person you would have chosen yourself.

These topics are conversations most of us just don’t want to have. But by critically reviewing all your plans and asking yourself what may be missing, you can help ease the transition after you are gone.

WJ Interests is a fee-only financial planning and investment management firm in Sugar Land. For more information, please contact us at wj@wjwealth.com or 281-634-9400.

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