A while back I was looking at one of those catalogs that sell “seen on TV” stuff – you know, stuff like “the amazing pocket chair” and the device that makes, “perfect strawberry slices.” I did found something of real interest to me in this catalog, a book called “What My Family Should Know.”
I cover estate planning in my Money Coach practice but I call it, Hit By a Truck Planning. Nobody thinks they will die, but I’ve found that clients will entertain the idea of being unable to manage their affairs, either temporary or permanently, if they get hit by a truck or by a bus. I call it the Survivor File, but maybe “What My Family Should Know” is a better title.
If something does happen to you, it is best for your survivors to know what stuff you have, where is it, and what you want to happen to it. This book starts with the location and date of your will. It asks for your social security information, safe deposit box, and your advisors and insurance agents. It has page after page of fill in the blanks about life insurance, bank accounts, investments, retirement savings, business interests, real estate. And it asks about your obligations and has blank pages for your “recommendations.”
I’d suggest you add information on your veteran status and that the book act as a guide to all your important documents – tax returns, birth and marriage certificates, deeds, divorce decrees. Provide information on the company you are working for and a phone number for a person in HR to call. The book should be a road map to property and keepsakes stashed in odd places. Write a first person biographical sketch of yourself. Discuss funeral arrangements (I list the five songs I want played at my final party). Give instructions on the mundane things like how to turn on the sprinklers. Leave a farewell note.
I encourage my clients to write a “Family Financial Philosophy,” which is a written mission statement that expresses one’s core beliefs and values regarding the accumulation, preservation, use, and distribution of wealth. It is your opportunity to leave a legacy that amounts to more than money.
There are two important things about this What My Family Should Know book. The first is you must fill it out, and the second is you must tell someone where it is. Don’t wait, that truck is out there!
Other articles by this contributor:
How to Prepare for Retirement
How Dave Solved His $65,000 Debt Problem
Investing – Let’s Get Started