Part 1: Financial Preparation
Last week, I passed an important anniversary: three years since open-heart surgery. Knowing that, a friend asked me how I prepared for my surgery. My reply has two parts: financial preparation, and the mental and physical preparation. In this newsletter, let me tackle finances. (You’ve probably noticed: this isn’t really about my open-heart surgery. It’s about preparing for the unexpected -- while you can, and for the benefit of your family and loved ones).
1. Estate Planning and Updating
According to one source, 64% of Americans die without a will. Don’t be one of them. When you pass away without a will, you leave it in the hands of state law to determine to whom your assets will go. You may not like the answer. Related, have a financial power of attorney, a medical power of attorney and a living will drafted and in-effect. If you already have these critical documents, review them periodically – at least once per year – to ensure they reflect your current life situation.
2. Take Inventory of Your Accounts
Make a list of all your financial accounts, including savings, checking, investment, credit cards, and mortgage. Include access information, like websites, usernames and passwords. (You may want to store them on a secure site like LastPass.) If the accounts are held locally, give the appropriate person’s name and contact information. Give this list to a confidant, most likely your spouse or attorney.
3. Household Finances
Heading into surgery, we paid the current bills, plus one month in advance. That way, if I were out of commission for more time than expected, my wife wouldn’t be troubled with bills for a while. Additionally, beyond an emergency fund, you may want to open a line of credit, in case you experience an extended absence and the family requires money beyond emergency savings. At least you will have opened it.
4. Put Your Business Affairs in Order
If you have a business by yourself, find coverage for your absence. If you have partners, determine who will make decisions in your absence. Doing so may require a legal agreement or corporate resolution.
5. Inform A Loved One – or Trusted Confidant – About These Plans
While uncomfortable to think about an extended absence, communicate your plans – including your key documents and list of accounts – to someone. Most likely, you will tell your spouse, attorney, accountant or financial advisor. Don’t leave people wondering about your arrangements. Make it easy on them.
6. Don’t Forget the Small Stuff
A few months before surgery, a friend from Washington, DC, called. “Your house alarm is going off and the police have been called,” he said. That call served as the trigger for me to update our alarm call list with people in Louisville. Think about seemingly minor aspects of life. Make updates as warranted.
Undoubtedly, your particular situation will require a personal approach. Fortunately, with surgery planned several months in advance, my family and I had time to prepare. Alas, life doesn’t always allow that grace period. Planning now can save your family enormous headaches – and heartaches.
October 18, 2017
Image created by Midjourney.