Just in case, make sure all your business is in order


By: Mark Harvey
Email: harvemb@dshs.wa.gov

One of the more interesting aspects of “aging” (at least, to me), is the observation that it is often accompanied by another quality that isn’t always as readily anticipated; that is, maturity.

Specifically, I’m thinking about the fact that many of us seem to conclude that we probably won’t live forever and, thus, would like that unwelcome-but-inevitable exit to be as stress-free as possible for (a) ourselves, and (b) everybody else, but let’s talk about the “everybody else” part, because I’m getting more and more questions from folks who would like to do it “right,” meaning not leaving people that they purport to love in an unbelievable logistical lurch – GOOD!

So, let’s try the common scenario of the long-time married couple, where one of the partners has always, out of habit and mutual agreement, been the one that’s on top of the financial and legal issues then, out of bad luck or miserable planning, steps off the planet – What should the other partner do, know or be able to find in order to survive in America? Take a deep breath, because here we go:

  • Location(s) and account number(s) of all bank accounts, and how they’re “held,” meaning Joint Tenancy, Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivorship, etc;
  • Plan names and administrators contact numbers for all pensions;
  • All the info on all the credit cards, including if there is any “credit life insurance;”
  • Birth certificates, marriage certificates, community property agreement and (Yes) death certificate;
  • Deeds to all property owned by either or both;
  • Please tell me that you have a will and, if applicable, a community property agreement. If no one has actually died yet, please tell me that you have durable powers of attorney and living wills (advance directives) AND that you can actually put your hands on them, and…
  • …please tell me that you’ve reviewed these periodically to make sure that your life hasn’t outlived your legal documents – Yes? Thank you!

NOTE: If you don’t have this stuff and/or need to change them and are concerned about your ability to be able to pay for same, call any of the numbers at the end of the column and talk it over. Now, where were we? Oh, yeah…

  • Titles to all vehicles (cars, boats, Harleys, whatever) owned by either or both;
  • All insurance policies currently in effect, including mortgage insurance, if applicable…
  • …which would include burial/cremation policies, right? Good;
  • Info regarding Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Income (SSDI), Medicaid, Long-Term Care, annuities, VA benefits – Any and all money (or benefits) that are coming in from anywhere;
  • Beneficiary designations (“transfer on death”) forms for any of the above? And you might want to include said forms for any financial institutions, brokerages, etc;
  • …and an inventory, with the CURRENT value, of any assets, like gun collections, etc.

…and anything else you can think of, absent your Reader’s Digest collection from 1959. Speaking as someone who’s “been there,” having no idea “where to look” or even “what you’re looking for” is frustrating and, for a partner, terrifying.

What else, in a perfect world? Keep copies of all this important stuff, which would probably include tax returns, etc. off premises in case of fire and, believe me, the freezer in the kitchen is NOT “fireproof.”

Tell people who need to know, like partner/spouse, attorney-in-fact and/or personal representative where the originals of all this stuff are and how to get at them. If you have a safe deposit box, consider having someone other than your spouse as a signatory, especially if that’s where you keep your estate planning stuff – See, if both are disabled or (even worse planning) deceased, it takes a court order to open the box, if you don’t have a copy of the will or power-of-attorney.

“Am I DONE?” You’re screaming, mentally. No, because, there’s that machine over in the corner, called a “computer;”

  • What about log-ons and passwords? Somebody had better know what they are and/or where they’re kept;
  • Somebody needs to know about any online accounts, like PayPal, etc. ad infinitum, and their passwords and whatever else;
  • Consider online file storage (or hosting) so all of your important stuff will, again, survive the proverbial fire – Keeping your laptop in the freezer is considered less than optimal.

So, was this the ultimate, comprehensive list of everything to do before you leave the planet? Obviously, not, but it’s a pretty good shot at giving your loved ones a pretty good shot at surviving the fact that you didn’t survive, and it addresses most of the things that attorneys would be interested in, and once we start “thinking this way,” more stuff tends to come to mind; besides, knowing you guys, you’ll let me know about anything that you think I’ve left out, and I thank you for that.
Next week? Well, what about some other scenarios where everybody didn’t figure all of this stuff out or, maybe, weren’t even that crazy about each other? Oh, Yes, Virginia – It happens.

Mark Harvey is the director of Information and Assistance for Olympic Area Agency on Aging. He can be reached at harvemb@dshs.wa.gov or 532-0520 in Aberdeen, (360) 942-2177 in Raymond or (360) 642-3634. FACEBOOK: Olympic Area Agency on Aging-Information & Assistance.

Categories: Mark Harvey – “The Daily World”
Topics: Death and Dying, Finances, Legal Issues
« We’ve got a lot of life ahead, so what are we going to do with it?
Time to tune a new focus on the small stuff »

5-10-2016 8-55-33 AM

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: