Preparing Financially for the Death of a Loved One

Brittany M. Midgette Wealth Planning

Nothing is certain but death and taxes, and not many topics make for worse conversation starters at the Thanksgiving table. Yet, finding the time to have thoughtful conversations and plan for the death of loved ones can ensure their wishes are met and can simplify the work for those remaining.

The following checklist can serve as a guide to your conversations.

Acknowledge that the conversation may be difficult, but important.
Make sure to include the right people.

Siblings, spouses, financial advisors – discuss with the loved one whom they would like to include in the conversation and plan for a time where everyone can join and be present. (hint: Christmas morning with seven cousins under the age of ten running
around isn’t the right time.)

Craft an agenda for your time together and consider including the following:
  • Review estate planning documents.
    • A last will and testament and, in some cases, a revocable trust are the cornerstones of an estate plan. These documents dictate how assets transfer at death, name a personal representative, and name a guardian in the case of minor children. Review the documents together to make sure the documents are current and reflect the loved one’s wishes.
    • A power of attorney allows someone else to make financial decisions on
      the persons behalf if they are unable to act.
  • Talk about health care wishes.
    • Discuss long-term case planning and wishes and explore preferences for end-of-life care. Having this discussion while healthy means family members won’t have to guess about what a loved one would have wanted for their care.
    • A living will and health care power of attorney legally document wishes and name someone to make decisions in case the family member is unable to do so themselves. Be sure to include HIPAA language in the document so the power of attorney can discuss conditions with medical staff. (Most states have a statutory form online to complete without
      needing to visit an attorney.)
  • Get organized.
    • Craft a financial statement that details all assets and accounts. Consider consolidating multiple bank accounts.
    • Find out if there is a safety deposit box and determine how to access the contents.
    • Create a list of bills for payment and the funds used to pay. Consider enrolling in automatic e-pay to minimize the work of the power of attorney.
    • Document all passwords for online accounts. A password manager such a LastPass or 1Password is a secure option for gathering passwords for a single access point.
    • It’s never too early to eliminate clutter. If you can sort through financial documents together, minimize where you can. Go ahead and shred those monthly bank statements from decades back.
    • Organize life insurance information. Gather policies and contact information to expedite the benefits process.
Share funeral plans and wishes.

Find out what your family member would like for his or her funeral service. Understand what is important to your loved one.

Talking about dying with those you love is a difficult task. But, having these critical conversations will ensure their wishes are met and will simplify the responsibilities of those left behind.

abacus lowercase a logo