In the January issue of the SMI newsletter, we ran an article that recommended taking a “fiscal health day.” The idea is to take a day off from work to catch up on your financial chores and tackle all of those money-related to-do items that have been piling up.
One of the recommended items was to fill out a “here’s-what you-need-to-know-about-our-finances-if-I-die” form. Since the article was published, we’ve received many e-mails from people who wanted to know where they can find such a form.
Unfortunately, we don’t have a ready-made form designed for that purpose. And even referring to it as a form is a bit of a misnomer. It’s about organizing your financial life so that your spouse could take care of your household’s financial affairs if you were no longer around.
While we don’t have a form you can just print and fill out, we can point you to some resources that will help guide you in this process.
First, go through the Set Your House in Order small group study, which is available from the ministry of Compass—Finances God’s Way. I highly recommend it.
The study walks you through the process of making sure you have the proper estate planning and other essential documents in place and then making sure your financial life is well organized and accessible to your spouse. But it’s more than that. It’s a Bible study that helps you take a more fully biblical approach to managing money and then leads you through the process setting your house in order.
Second, to make sure you’ve covered everything, you may also want to get a copy of the My Family Record Book. It’s an exhaustive reference to all of the many items to think about organizing for the benefit of your surviving spouse. It’s so detailed that you may find yourself thinking it goes too far, but I found it to be a helpful added resource.
Here’s at least a partial list of the documents or information to gather in one place:
- Wills, trust, power-of-attorney documents, living will
- Bank/credit union accounts
- Investment accounts
- Life insurance policies
- Other insurance policies
- Home and vehicle titles
- Ministry and other charitable organizations you support
- Safe deposit box (where is it, what’s in it, and where is the key?)
- Social Security (login information and most recent estimated benefits)
- Name and contact info for any financial professionals you work with (financial advisor, lawyer, accountant)
- Name and contact info for medical professionals (doctor, dentist).
- Master list of user names and passwords for online accounts
- Name and contact info for trusted service providers (plumber, electrician, heating/air conditioning company, handyman, painter, lawn care company, mechanic)
- Funeral wishes
Helpful added information
My wife and I now have file folders containing information about all of the above that pertain to us. In addition, I’m in the process of adding summary sheets to each folder. For example, in the life insurance folder, there will be a list of policies, policy numbers, death benefits, expiration dates (for term policies), beneficiaries, and even recommendations for investing the proceeds.
For bills, I’m listing those that need to be paid each month, as well as those that are due at other intervals, due dates, and how they are paid (automatically, online).
With the list of service providers, I’m including notes about how often to have various items maintained.
Just going through this process will likely spur you to take other action, such as making sure your beneficiary designations are as they should be, consolidating some accounts, and reviewing your insurance coverage.
To some degree, this is a project that will always be in process. Information will need to be updated anytime you open or close an account.
What else have you done to prepare your spouse to handle your household’s finances after your death?