Who Pays the Bills If I’m Not Around?

The-time-s-question

Who pays the bills in your house? If your house is like most, there is probably one person who handles most of the financial matters. Would you or your spouse be prepared to assume the role of managing the household finances if something happened to the other spouse? Too often, clients have gone through the process of ensuring their estate plan is in order, just to realize that, when one passes away, the other does not have the information they need to pick up where the other left off. After the wills, power of attorneys, and medical directives are created and the other crucial estate planning components are addressed, take some time to consider your unique family situation and the details that would make the transition more difficult to navigate following a death.

A recent issue of The Ledger contained a very practical checklist for organizing household finances in “Estate planning details you may be forgetting.”It included these important points:

1. Organize financial documents and personal information. Leaving behind organized records with everything from account information to contact numbers will help your spouse or children when they need access to this information. Make certain your spouse knows where you keep things such as wills, trust documents, insurance information, social security cards, birth certificates, medical records, and tax information. Write the names and contact information of emergency contacts and include your doctors, attorney, and insurance agent.

2. Create a list of assets and liabilities. Assets should include bank accounts, brokerage accounts, safety deposit boxes, and property. Liabilities should include things like credit card debts, mortgages, and car payments. List the location, names on the accounts, account numbers, and any website login information including usernames, passwords, and security questions for each one.

3. Identify all sources of income and expenses. This will help your spouse understand what in-flows to expect, as well the bills to be paid. Note whether you pay a bill by paper or online, and if online, list the usernames, passwords, and security information to access the websites.

4. Document any other miscellaneous information that your spouse might need. While this might not be financial planning, it is still very important. This includes things like where you keep the spare keys to your house, or any keys to the shed or safes. As you go through your daily routine, consider things that are obvious to you, but may not be as obvious to your spouse or children. This should include a list of passwords for online accounts, passwords for computers and other electronic devices, locations of flash drives or CDs with old family pictures—even a basic household maintenance checklist.

Detailed planning will result in the peace of mind for your spouse and family in the event of your death or incapacitation.

Sit down with an experienced estate planning attorney to get some help with planning for these and other life events.

Reference: The Ledger (September 17, 2015) “Estate planning details you may be forgetting”

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