Friday, July 25, 2014

Third in a series - THE Important Conversation

As you may have guessed, the past two Tips were the primary steps in "putting your financial house in order." Be it your house, your parents' or a friend's, it all makes life easier when you are organized and can find important information quickly and in an emergency.

Other information to have readily available would be a
List of Professionals including their name, address and phone number:
Financial Advisor
Insurance Agent

A List of Investments including the name of the institution, account number, phone number and online access (User ID and PWD):
Brokerage accounts
Checking and Savings Accounts
401k or 403b
529 College Savings Plan
ESOP (employee stock ownership plan)

You may organize all this information in a 3-ring binder. Ideally, update it annually. Or you may buy a book with all the categories organized and separated for you. There are several offered by Amazon or any bookstore. e.g. Putting Things in Order or Get It Together: Organize Your Records so Your Family Won't Have To.

Be $ smart - put your financial house in order to give you quick and easy access as well as peace of mind.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

THE Important Conversation

Too many families are avoiding THE important conversation. No, not the one about the birds and the bees; the one about estate planning. Estate means what you own and planning means how it will be used in the future. You don’t have to own much to do some estate planning.

Maybe you are young and have not built your estate yet but chances are you have parents who have accumulated a few things. You need to know what they have done about estate planning. It then becomes tricky. You hesitate to ask your parents about their retirement or estate plans. You might not want to appear greedy or eager to see them pass on. Your parents are reluctant to share this information with you for fear of giving you hopes (or disappointment) about inheritance. So everyone is in the dark!

Not having “the important conversation” can lead to misconceptions. Who will care for your aging parents? You? Your sibling? Or are you hoping your parents will have the resources to move into an assisted living facility? Won’t you be surprised when they decide to move in with you! Or better yet, take your inheritance and buy a fancy home in St. Thomas.

Do your parents have sufficient income to stay in their own home? Will they need both physical and financial help from you along the way? Maybe they have sufficient assets to live a long and comfortable life. How will you know, as they age, if they have participated in some scam that could drastically reduce their assets unless you know what assets they have?

At first it might feel awkward. Start with a few simple questions like: how are you and dad doing? What are your plans for the future? How will you make that happen? It might take two or three tries but eventually they will open up and you’ll all feel better.

If you are the parent, make time to have THE conversation with your children or loved ones.

Be $ smart - give yourself and your parents peace of mind. Have THE conversation.

Important Documents to Have on Hand..

Last week I spoke of THE important conversation about estate planning. This week I will continue that theme with a list of documents that should be current and readily available.

Having these documents will save you time, money and angst.
Top of the list is a will. Is it current? Have you married, divorced, had kids or changed the state in which you live? Who has the original? We left ours with our attorney who reitred and moved leaving no contact information. When my husband died we had a copy but needed the original. So technically, he died intestate. What a nightmare I was left to unravel in the throes of grief.

Durable Power of Attorney
Property Deeds (house, land)
Letter of Instruction (last wishes)
Marriage License
Divorce Decree and Judgment
Birth Certificate(s)
Vehicle Titles (boat, car, RV, motorcycle)
Outstanding Personal Loan Agreements (friends, family)
Life Insurance Policies
Healthcare Proxy
Living Will
Deed for Cemetary Plot

Take an inventory of your documents. How many can you find? How many do your parents have on hand?
You may have to request a copy from your attorney or town clerk. And of course, keep them in a safe place in a fireproof box.
Promise yourself you will collect these documents by Labor Day 2014.

Be $ smart, update and inventory your important documents to save you time and money.