Creating a legacy can be a dual effort but oftentimes one person in the household takes the lead on planning. It’s a natural approach because when one person does the job, you avoid duplication of effort. It would be easy to overlap if both you and your spouse were heavily involved in the planning process. While it makes sense to delegate the responsibility to one person, what if that person should die first? If the surviving spouse didn’t take an active role in the legacy creation, he or she might not have much to go on in terms of what assets exist and where they’re located.
If you’re the legacy planner of the household, it’s important to take the time to make sure family members know the roadmap, whether it’s your spouse or your children or both. The following checklist can help streamline the process before you have the conversation.
- List all assets and liabilities. On the asset side, this includes bank accounts, safety deposit boxes, property, investments and even personal belongings. For liabilities, think of any debt you may owe, i.e. auto and home loans, and credit card debt. Additionally consider taxes on property and income. (Income tax still must be paid if the deceased worked any part of that year.)
- Speaking of income, it’s important to identify sources of income. That can be wages from full- or part-time employment, investment dividends, income from shared property ownership, Social Security or Veteran’s benefits. On the flip side, detail expenses, so your spouse can get an accurate picture of cash flow. It’s even important to note method of payment, e.g. whether the bill is paid online and if it’s set to auto pay or manual.
- Write out the names and contact information of family members as well as professionals you use such as attorneys, doctors, CPAs, insurances agents and financial planners. Most of these will be involved in the dispersal of your legacy to one degree or another.
- Make sure all of these items are organized. Filing everything in one central location makes this infinitely easier. When I say filing, I don’t mean that in the traditional sense with file folders and labels. An online document directory is a great organizational tool that can point to where each account lives as well as provide account usernames and passwords. So even though each account or document is separate, you can go to one place and find a list of everything.
This last item is where LegacyShield comes in. Creating a LegacyShield account will allow you to attain this level of organization, so that family members don’t have to sift through stacks of paper and wait by the mail to see what bills trickle in. All they have to do is remember one account and one password to tap into a world of information and a lifetime of security.