Are Your Ducks in a Row?


By WJ Interests –

Talking about death can be difficult but if you really want to ease your family’s burden after you are gone, make sure you’ve filled some of these common gaps.

Wills

Do you have a will? Is it up-to-date, and does it list all of your specific bequests? Do your beneficiaries know where your will is? Someone besides you should know exactly where it is and be able to access it. Some good places include a safe deposit box, estate planning attorney, financial advisor or even your church, an often overlooked resource. Your church or pastor is one of the first people your family will call upon your death.

Legal Documents

Legal documents can become very important if there are questions about how your estate is to be settled. It’s a good idea to have copies of all legal documents kept with every copy of your will. Be sure to include at least the following:

  • Birth or adoption records/certificates.
  • Marriage certificates.
  • Divorce, separation or annulment records.
  • Deeds of ownership.

Bank/Financial Accounts

A bank manager related a story about a man with numerous accounts. After he died, it was discovered that even though his wife was his sole beneficiary, he had never added her to a single account, and she was unable to make the mortgage payments, let alone pay for his funeral.

Wills have to be probated and insurance claims have to be processed before funds are released. Don’t assume your survivors will be able to access your funds immediately. It is best to have your spouse, one of your children or even the executor of your estate already named as an access person on at least one account so final expenses are met and your bills continue to be paid on time.

Additionally, it’s important to update beneficiaries on accounts such as IRA’s. The beneficiary designations on IRA’s supersede anything in the will. There have been situations where a person was divorced and remarried but forgot to update the beneficiary to their new spouse. When they passed, the IRA funds were sent to the ex-spouse since they were listed as the beneficiary.

Powers of Attorney

Just as important as naming your beneficiaries is designating who will be responsible for handling your finances if you are incapacitated. Powers of attorney range from the general to the specific; you can decide how much control you give and to whom. In certain cases, if there is no power of attorney, the state can grant guardianship to the person it deems is best suited; this may not be the person you would have chosen yourself.

These topics are conversations most of us just don’t want to have. However, critically reviewing all of your plans now can help ease the transition after you reach your expiration date.


WJ Interests, LLC, has provided Fee-Only financial advice to individuals, families and businesses since 1996. For more information, please contact us at wj@wjwealth.com or 281-634-9400.