Ever wondered how an Estate Planning attorney advises her own parents?

Stamped: “June 29, 1912”

I’m sharing a real email I sent my Dad recently.  He sought my advice about how best to prepare a list of his financial information so I would have it if he died or became disabled.  This is right up my alley, so I happily complied and now want to share.

First, some background on my family.  Dad is a retired physician.  He is in his early 70s, healthy, responsible, and fully capable.  Mom died many years ago and Dad is unmarried but in a long-term relationship.  I have one brother.  He and I are responsible, close, and similarly situated.    

Like most dads, mine does not like to take advice from his children.   (The fear of dying on an extended European cruise seems to have led him to go against his better judgment!)   Listing financial information, and keeping the list up-to-date, is not an easy task for any of us.  Discussing the process with family members can be difficult too.  Hopefully, my email outline will help your family. I believe it helped mine.

“Dad –

I suggest you make a list of your financial information and try to keep it current.  It can be in an Excel spreadsheet, Word document, or even just handwritten.  Since keeping track of information can be burdensome over time, keep it simple.  I would maintain an electronic AND a hard copy of the list somewhere where we would look if you died or lost capacity.  It shouldn’t be locked in a safe or safe deposit box.  I encourage you to continue to get paper statements for all accounts, including all credit cards and bills. 

Here is what you should put on the list.  I am making some assumptions about what you own, so please add to this if I am missing any unusual assets.

ASSETS

List all Bank, Brokerage, Non-Retirement Investment, Pensions and Retirement accounts.

For each account list the following 4 things: (i) Name of the Institution/Bank; (ii) Account number; (iii) How the account is titled.  Is it in your individual name?  Is it in the name of a Trust?  Is it owned jointly with someone else?; and (iv) If the account has a beneficiary, who is it?

Be sure to include on the list any accounts titled in the name of Mom’s Trust.

List all Life Insurance Policies.

For each account list the following 5 things: (i) Name of the life insurance company; (ii) Policy number; (iii) Who owns the policy?  Is it owned by you or by a Trust?; (iv) Who is the beneficiary?; (v) Location of the policy, if you have it.

Helpful additional information about assets:

Do you have a safe deposit box.  Where?  Where is the key for access?  What is in it, if anything?

Do you have any items stored elsewhere?  What is the code for access?

Where is title to your car?

LIABILITIES

List all Mortgages, HELOCs, and Car loans.

For each account list the following 2 things: (i) Name of the lender and (ii) Account number.

List all Credit cards.

For each card list the following 3 things: (i) Name of the credit card company; (ii) Account number; and (iii) Is the amount due paid automatically?

HEALTH CARE INFORMATION

List your Medicare Number

List your Supplemental (Medigap) Health Plan and Member Number

List your Long Term Care Insurance carrier and Account Number.  Where is the LTC insurance policy located?

List name and contact info of Primary Care Physician

ADVISORS

List name and contact info of Estate Planning Attorney and location of original Estate Plan documents.

List name and contact info of Accountant

List name and contract info of Financial Advisor.

DIGITAL ASSETS

Try your best to keep a list of usernames and passwords for your online accounts.  This should include bank/investment accounts you manage online, credit cards, email accounts, photo accounts, service/shopping accounts (like Amazon, Netflix, etc.), and social media accounts (like Facebook).  Do your best on this!  It is hard to keep up to date.  I struggle with this too.  I don’t think it is essential (or even possible) for it to be perfect.  If you have a Master Password for Phone or Computers, be sure to put that on the List.   

Rachel”