It’s normal to want to avoid thinking about a time when you or your loved ones may no longer be able to take care of yourselves. But if you can think through a few key details, you’ll be much better prepared with your financial arrangements—and more able to enjoy time with family and friends.
Whether it’s related to bank accounts, property, assets, insurance or liabilities, keep all of your financial information in one secure place and let trustworthy loved ones know where it is. Not only will this help ensure your loved ones will be able to access important documents and contacts, but it’s a useful way for you to uncover potential holes in your estate plan. Having a checklist and an inventory of all your assets can also help you and your family keep track of what you own and owe.
Enlist the help of professionals
If you have questions about your estate plan, are unsure about where to begin or just don’t want to make important financial decisions alone, talk to a professional. A qualified estate or elder law attorney can help make sure all of your necessary estate-planning documents are in order, including any wills, trusts, health care directives, and financial and medical durable powers of attorney. A qualified financial professional can also assist with insurance options or referrals, account protection safeguards, investment strategies and long-term care planning.
It’s a good idea to list at least one primary and one contingent beneficiary on all of your financial accounts, and to update your beneficiaries with any major life or family event such as a birth, marriage, divorce, or death. By designating beneficiaries, you can ensure that when the time comes your assets will go exactly where you specify. If you don’t have designated beneficiaries on file with your financial institutions, the court could make that decision for you.
If you already have an estate plan or a trust in place, or are considering one, be sure to consult with a financial professional or attorney to avoid the risk of conflicts between your estate plan and account beneficiaries.
Start a dialogue
It’s often a difficult conversation to have, but it’s important to talk to your loved ones about how to best take care of financial matters when you’re no longer able to do so yourself. Your family should be familiar with the details of your estate plan, such as health care power of attorney, living will or advance care directives, Social Security and trust management, long-term care preferences, and burial wishes.
Find someone you trust
Outside of financial and legal professionals, it’s important to have someone trustworthy on hand who knows you well. A Trusted Contact is a resource that your broker or financial professional may contact on your behalf to help address possible financial exploitation, to confirm your contact information, and in certain other circumstances. Find out more about adding a Trusted Contact at Schwab.