The most often ignored aspect of personal financial planning is “what happens when someone dies?” Not “if”, when.
We aren’t just talking about your insurance or wills either. This is about understanding how to make things easier for those left behind.
People often pay enormous attention to investment and wealth building, and the astute also give serious consideration to their estate planning. This goes beyond merely having a current will though. How your asset ownership is arranged, and how you wish to have assets disposed of when you enter the great hereafter are crucial issues, as is providing authority to appropriate people to act on your behalf in certain circumstances.
But perhaps more importantly, who knows what your financial arrangements are?
It is staggering to find that many people ignore the importance of ownership and proper planning in their affairs. It is more amazing that those who do actually do something about it then often treat it as a closely guarded secret. Not having (and using) a process is rather like hoarding your money in the old biscuit tin in the pantry. When you aren’t around any more, you’re really hoping that the people who need it stumble across it before it gets thrown in the rubbish. It’s a lot smarter to let them know that the biscuit tin is important, and where they might find it.
For each of us, it all ends sometime. Sometimes it is only a temporary ending - with disablement - and we come right. When you can’t act for yourself though, other people need to know what they are required to do. Can they deal with the bank for you, or the doctor? What authority do they have to represent your interests, perhaps with your accountant, solicitor or trustees? Are children involved in your world - what about guardianship - and management of funds on their behalf? Where do the people who need to act find everything - or anything at all for that matter?
If you have a problem, put a process in place to deal with it. The first step in your process would be to talk to those affected or involved, and ensure that they are clear on what your thinking is. Secondly, write them a letter after the discussion, so there is no confusion in the future. It doesn’t have to be a “legally prepared” document - just a letter covering what you want, where things are kept, who the key people are and anything else you think important.
The third step is the most vital. Put your plan down on paper in detail and then circulate it to the people involved. Those people might include:
- Parents and/or other family
- Close friends
- Bank Manager
- Financial Adviser
What should be covered in your plan would include where important documents are located, and who the key people are, copies of powers of attorney and schedules of insurance’s and investments. Any other useful financial, health or family information (for instance, where medical records are held) would be extremely helpful to those who have to arrange your affairs when you can’t.
Please note: this guidance does not replace the need to have excellent estate planning done professionally. Wills, powers of attorney, trusts, correct ownership of assets...these things should be done, and the sooner the better.
Even if you do have them all done and have a perfect estate plan prepared, the big question that we want to draw to your attention here is: who knows about it?
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