Don't Leave Your Loved Ones in a Puzzle

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I put blocks of sugar in my beehives. This common practice hives bees an additional source of food to get them through the winter. As I got into the first hive, I found my bees had already died. I was sad, but it had been my weakest hive, so I wasn’t entirely surprised. This hive had a poor queen that, in hindsight, I should have replaced this summer. Regardless, I had to spend some time cleaning out the hive. As I did this, I reflected on how this task translates into the human world. As the beekeeper, I knew what I had to do in the dead hive, so I had the job wrapped up in about 20 minutes. That’s not the way it goes in our lives nowadays. As a financial planner, I have seen a medical emergency turn into a scattered puzzle that loved ones have to piece together over several weeks.

We all have different ways of running our financial lives. Some of us have everything set up on auto-pay, while others still write checks. Some people like to get paper statements, while others get everything via email. We deal with different insurance companies, utility providers, and credit card companies. When a crisis occurs and you can’t manage your financial world for a while, others have to step in. Unless you have spent time preparing instructions for the appropriate person, your loved one will spend days, if not weeks, trying to figure out your financial life and put together the puzzle pieces. Think of it this way: Someone is responsible for walking into your home and picking up where you left off. What do they need to know? They probably need to know how to get into your email so they can get paperless statements and invoices.

They need to know about your routine income and expenses, including your mortgage and utilities. They need to know the location of important documents, passwords, and keys. Also important is a list of people to contact, such as your tax preparer, financial planner, insurance agent, and attorney. As you can imagine, having an instruction letter to reference during this time would be invaluable. Spend some time this holiday season writing down instructions to be used in the event of your incapacity or death. Then, share those instructions with the appropriate person. Don’t think of this as a gloomy topic—think of this as another way you can show your family and friends that you love them.

Juli Erhart-Graves, CFP®, Worley Erhart-Graves Financial Advisors

This article was included in the Worley Erhart-Graves Quarterly Newsletter. Download the printable version here.