Suze Orman is an Emmy
Award–winning TV host,
New York Times best-selling
author and motivational
speaker. She can be contacted
Orman will answer selected
questions in this column.
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questions cannot be
Please include “Suze Orman
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Q&A with Suze Orman
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search “Financial Connection.”
ASK YOURSELF this question: When I die, will
my family have an easy time tending to my financial affairs? When it comes to protecting and
caring for loved ones, there is often a disconnect
between the clear intentions in the heart and the
practical planning put in place.
I understand. Being practical about one’s own
death is not the easiest of internal conversations.
But it is essential to develop a road map that will
help your family navigate your financial affairs
after you have passed. It goes without saying that
your loved ones will be in the midst of a wrenching
emotional journey. You don’t want to compound
their grief with added stress and frustration if
they are left to figure out your financial affairs
without any guidance. Here’s how to help your
family deal with your affairs.
Make sure your estate plan docs are up to
date. A will, a trust, a financial power of attorney, an advance directive and a durable power
of attorney for health care are the must-have
documents that will make it easy for your family
to care for you if you ever reach a point where
you can’t express your wishes. And once you die,
your will and trust will ensure the smoothest
transfer of ownership of your assets.
Check that your bank accounts are payable
on death. When you die, your immediate family
will need to make sure your ongoing bills and
outstanding debts continue to get paid. The way
to guarantee your family has quick, easy access
to your bank accounts is to make sure each account
has a payable-on-death provision that transfers
the account after you die to the person you designate. When you pass, that person will need to
present a copy of your death certificate and proof
of identification, and he or she will be able to step
in and pay bills.
Create a master list of every ;nancial asset
and obligation. It’s not good enough to have it all
filed away in dozens of folders. It’s not enough to
have thorough records that make sense to you.
What is necessary is to create a cheat sheet that
spells out every investment, insurance policy and
debt you have. Not doing this sets in motion an
endless search by your family, who will forever
wonder if they have found everything.
A logistical strategy for doing this: Create a
file (online or a hard copy tucked into a filing
cabinet) that lists by name every financial
account you have. Don’t include any account
numbers or other sensitive information. Include
a note attached to your master list that explains
to your executor that the account numbers (and
online passwords, if applicable) are written down
and stored in your bank safe deposit box (see
below). This isn’t about not trusting your loved
ones—it’s a way to protect yourself from having
the information stolen from your home.
One final step: Spell out the name of the bank
where the safe deposit box is and who in the family has been entrusted to keep a key or knows
where you have stashed it.
Communicate and update. Let your immediate
family know that you have created this master list.
If you don’t want to share it with them yet, that’s
fine. But tell them where the list is. A filing cabinet. The lower left drawer of your office desk.
Whatever. But you want it to be clearly labeled and
kept in a place that you have communicated to
I want you to review the list once a year to make
sure it remains up to date. My wish is that you have
decades of reviewing left to do. All the while, you
will have peace of mind, knowing you have truly
taken care of your family. C
The legacy challenge
MAKE SURE YOUR MASTER LIST OF FINANCIAL ACCOUNTS
INCLUDES INFORMATION ON THE FOLLOWING:
• Bank accounts.
• Investment accounts.
• 401(k) plan.
• Life insurance.
• Home insurance.
• Credit cards.
• Loans: mortgage, car, etc.
• Titles and deeds to your cars and home.
Passing it on, with ease