Before I Go Workbook
7. Financial Affairs
This is one subject that often has people turning away, heart sinking and promising themselves they will get around to it. And then it never happens.
But here’s why it is so important to make sure your financial affairs are not only in good order, but that you have detailed what you want to happen with your finances after your death.
• You know where you keep all your financial information - but your executor won’t. It will help them considerably if you detail this.
• Itemizing all your accounts/insurances/benefits/pensions, etc., means it is easy to access them, and your executor won’t be left wondering if there is anything that hasn’t been discovered.
• Stating what you wish to have happen with certain monies will make it much more likely that this happens.
• You deciding what you want will minimize family arguments.
• It will save your family time and money that would otherwise be spent on trying to sort out muddles.
The most important thing you can do regarding your financial affairs is have an up to date will, outlining what you want to have happen. If you want to ensure your money and anything else of import goes to the person, people, charity or cause that you want, then you need to write a will detailing this. Otherwise, the law in your country or state will determine to whom your assets will go, and this may very well not be who you want it to be.
Even if, for whatever reason, you decide not to have a will, it is better to write down your wishes in your Before I Go workbook, because there is still more chance of them then being carried out than if you hadn’t written anything down at all.
Finances and Family Patterns
It is not unusual for families who normally get on well to find their emotions running high if they perceive their siblings have been treated differently in a will, or to be left with feelings of bitterness and/or resentment after a loved family member has died, particularly parents. They may even dispute a will. It is as if without the parents steering the helm of the family ship, the crew, in their grief, discover long-held family patterns from childhood that come to the surface to get re-enacted. Even if you can’t imagine that this would ever happen, it can, and it does. The best way you can minimize this kind of thing happening is to detail your wishes in a will, and stick to them. Even then wills can get contested but it is still much better to have one than not.
I’ve just heard that one of my best friends has died. She was only 51. Her mother is having a nightmare as her daughter’s phone and computer were password protected and they are having to deal with the mess of her affairs. They don’t even know if she had a will. It’s making a terrible time even more stressful.
I heard later that the situation became much worse and ended badly. The only signed will they eventually could find was one from when my friend was still in a toxic marriage, which ended a decade before she died. Half of her estate was left to her husband. Legally he couldn’t inherit as the law treats an ex-spouse as deceased but his heirs were entitled to his share. His two sisters, who were vile to her for many years, and whom she couldn’t stand, inherited several hundred thousand pounds.
Her own brother got nothing. Her mother was enraged and distressed but didn’t want the estate to disappear in legal fees, plus she wasn’t in any state to go to court and contest it. It was horrible. At no point did the two sisters get in touch, send condolences, say thank you, offer to take a lesser sum or offer to donate some to charity. They just took the money. Hard as I try not to be judgmental, I can’t quite manage it here. It made a shocking death so much worse for the family. Caroline, England.
Associated areas to think about
Who currently handles your money? An accountant, financial adviser, insurance planner or adviser, and any investment fund managers or tax specialists? Anyone else? These people (or firms) should be named in your workbook, with contact details. If you have no-one, perhaps because you have little money or assets to leave, then make sure you state that in the workbook. This has a checklist of all the areas you need to think about, and then it is up to you how your organize this. Some people prefer to detail everything on an Excel spreadsheet, others to simply list accounts on a piece of paper. Still others prefer to use an online platform. Whatever you decide to do, keep it simple, clear and concise.
My parents are pretty well organised when it comes to their finances, and they have stated very simply in writing that each account or monetary arrangement of any kind has a file in the top drawer of the filing cabinet. I’ve seen them, and though it might be helpful if all these were listed on one piece of paper, it will not be onerous for me to go through the top drawer when the time comes. Sandy, Scotland
Think about the kind of person you are, and what filing arrangement suits you best (whether online or offline). So long as your executor knows where to find this information, and how to access it if it is online, then you are doing fine. If you are using the workbook, make sure you write in the location of everything, as a minimum. If you don’t have any of the stated documentation (because it is irrelevant), make sure you state that too.