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What We Leave Behind

Tight Ship Advisors means different things to different people, including relief from an overwhelming situation, assistance in maintaining independence, financial security or simply the freedom to enjoy retirement. Working with one particular client has been especially rewarding. She is a 50 year old woman whose chronic illnesses had overcome her ability to manage her household, her three dependent children, her husband, who works away from home during the week and an invalid mother.   We had been working on Medicare/Medicaid re-enrollments, bill consolidation and building a working household budget.

This morning her husband called. She passed away suddenly two days ago.

All I can do now is relieve her grieving husband and children from managing all that is outstanding.   Their grief shouldn’t be compounded by the stress of the mounds of mail and paperwork on the dining room table. Over the next month, I will spend a each week shepherding their accounts through adjudication and restoring some normalcy into their financial situation.

She left behind no will, no power of attorney (healthcare or durable), no instructions, no living will….. no estate plan of any kind. Rather than launch into all of the scenarios that can result from not having any of these simple documents – like debates over life sustaining measures or ending up in probate court, I will close by saying these situations inevitably cause emotional pain which leads to greater stress and heartache.

Instead, I implore you to take a couple of hours and get your house in order. A couple of hours.

Employ an estate planner (I know some outstanding and upstanding professionals!) or simply log on to legalzoom - just get the proverbial pen to paper.  Costs are lower than you think and can save you from losing upwards of 70% of your estate to legal fees and estate taxes.  Yes, 70%!  Also, the average length of time an estate will stay in probate is anywhere from 6 months to 2 years.

We live in a digital age rife with paperless statements and usernames/passwords. Utilize a username/password tool such as LastPass or Keeper.  These tools allow for a designated person to have access after an emergency or unexpected death.  They will also assist with a digital will.  Don't ignore the day to day stuff.  The comcast bill, the landscaper........  Each service provider you pay on a regular basis needs to be notated.  Googledocs or OneDrive is the simplest way to give life to your household budget. The three wise (wo)men – your insurance agent (health &/or life), your lawyer and your accountant/CFA. If you employ any of these professionals, in an event of a crisis or passing, your estate will work in conjunction with them. Share their contact info with your loved ones.

Share the whereabouts or existence with this information with whoever you designate as your “person”. No personal or account information needs to be shared,just who to contact and how to proceed. Humorous as it sounds, each year I get an email from my mother entitled “Dead”. It contains an update on who to call, where a specific item may be or the revised directive for her final wishes. Morbid or not, it gives her a greater sense of security that if anything should happen, and I know that I will be able to follow all of her final wishes exactly as she would have wanted.

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