Who Handles the Finances in Your Family? 03-31-2010
Often a couple may divide up everyday chores. One person may take care of the “indoor chores,” like cooking and cleaning, while the other person may do “outdoor chores,” like mowing the lawn, raking the leaves, or shoveling snow. One person may purchase holiday and birthday gifts while the other person may pay the bills and handle financial matters.
Dividing up the work can be a great way to ease the burdens of life. However, it is also important that each person knows how to do all the chores, in case they need to take them on some day. If the “cook” is sick, the other person will need to step in until the cook is back on their feet.
But, what would happen if the person responsible for money matters died or suffered an incapacitating event? Let’s look at a couple who had that experience.
George and Martha divided up the chores. George had responsibility for money matters. It worked well for them. George was good with money and Martha hated all the paperwork. However, when George had a stroke, became incapacitated, and died unexpectedly at age 50, Martha did not know anything about their financial affairs. In addition to grieving for the loss, there was confusion and uncertainty on the finances. Nobody even knew where to send the mortgage payment.
Teaching each other the skills involved in the other’s chores is especially important in financial matters. It’s important that both parties know the basics. Here’s a list of a baker’s dozen of important questions for your financial well-being:
- Are the bills sent electronically, how do you pay them, and from which account?
- Do you have any automatic money transfers set up?
- Where are the checking accounts?
- Where are the savings accounts?
- Where are the brokerage accounts?
- What are the passwords and account numbers?
- Where are the health insurance cards kept?
- Is there any life insurance?
- Do you each have “durable” financial powers of attorney which continue after your incapacity and do you know their location? A durable financial power of attorney allows your appointed “agent” to manage your assets in the event of your incapacity.
- Do you each have health care powers of attorney and where are they? A health care power of attorney allows your “agent” to make health care decisions for you in the event of your incapacity.
- Do you each have a Trust (or a joint Trust) which covers the event of incapacity and death and do you know where the Trust is? Do you have a Will and know where it is?
- Do you have a Will and do you know its location? Even if you have a Trust, you still need a Pour-over Will to place any omitted assets into the Trust at your death.
- Who are your trusted advisors, such as estate planning attorney, primary care physician, broker, insurance agent, and other trusted advisors?
When illness, incapacity, or death strike, it’s important to know where things are and what to do. Make sure you know the answers to the dozen questions above. If you do not have powers of attorney for financial and health care matters and a Trust or Will, make sure you get those in place. An estate planning attorney from Morris Hall who focuses his or her practice in estate planning can help you. In fact, when you consult an attorney who is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, not only will they tailor an estate plan to your individual needs, they will provide you with a Portfolio in which you can easily track all of your important information.
Take a moment today to learn about the finances. You’ll sleep better once you do.