In a recent article in US News and World Reports, Scott Holsopple sets out questions which everyone should ask when planning for what happens when they are no longer alive and handling their financial affairs.
One important question is: Does my spouse know about all of our accounts and how to access them? Make a list of all of your accounts. For on line accounts, include passwords. Include on the list all of your estate planning documents (Wills, Trusts, Powers of Attorney) and their location. Do not make the mistake of putting these documents in your safe deposit box. In a safe deposit box, the documents can be accessed only by someone on the bank’s signature card. If the Power of Attorney for Health Care is needed immediately, the bank may not be open.
Another important question is: Are our wills and beneficiary designations up to date? If there has been a significant change such as marriage, divorce, death of an executor or birth of a child, the will may need to be updated. You may decide to avoid Probate with the Court and put a revocable trust in place. Also, assets which allow you to name a beneficiary (and avoid Probate) such as 401(k)s, IRAs, Life insurance, Annuities and accounts with a transfer on death (TOD) designation may need to be updated.