Sam and Marie have been married for 38 years. Like many couples, early in their marriage, they gravitated toward a division of labor that worked for them. Sam is an amateur chef, so he handles the grocery shopping, the meal planning, and the cooking. Marie loves the outdoors, so she takes care of the lawn and the garden. Marie, who is a neat freak, does much of the cleaning, while Sam keeps track of the family finances. Sam and Marie have done something else; they have done something really smart. Despite their division of labor, each of them knows how to handle all of the other’s responsibilities. This way, if one spouse goes out of town or gets sick, the household continues to run smoothly. Meals are still cooked, the lawn is maintained, and the bills are paid on time.
Last year, when Sam had a mild stroke, this “cross-training” paid off in a big way. Marie knew exactly where to find Sam’s important medical documents. She had all the important information about his health and disability insurance coverage. When it took several months for him to get back into the swing of things, she was able to keep their finances on track without missing a beat.
You and your spouse likely divide the household responsibilities, but do you take the extra step and stay up-to-date on each other’s tasks? If you don’t, you might want to start with your family’s finances. No matter which spouse handles your family’s budget, it is essential that both of you know some basic information. Here’s a checklist to get you started:
An overview of your basic monthly bills, including how each is paid and from which account
The locations of your checking, savings, and brokerage accounts
Your account numbers and passwords
The email account and password where you receive billing statements
An overview of your filing system
The locations of your insurance policies, declaration pages, and/or cards, including: • Health insurance • Auto insurance • Homeowner’s insurance • Life insurance
The location and details of your estate planning documents, including: • Living Trust: Many people opt for a Living Trust to serve as the foundation of their estate plan. This tool allows you to plan for your family’s security in case you become disabled. It also lets you distribute your assets without the need for probate in the event of your death. • Will: Even with a Living Trust, a Will is a necessary part of your estate plan. A Pour-Over Will “catches” any assets left out of your Trust and allows those assets to be distributed in accordance with your overall plan. A Will also lets you designate a guardian for your minor children. • Financial Power of Attorney: A Financial Power of Attorney allows you to name an agent to handle your financial decision-making in case you are incapacitated. • Healthcare Power of Attorney: A Healthcare Power of Attorney lets you name an agent to make medical decisions for you in case you are too ill or injured to do so yourself.
The names and contact information for each of your trusted advisors, including: • Estate Planning Attorney • Insurance Agent • Financial Advisor • Primary Care Physician
With a little planning, you can spare your family the confusion and stress that too often accompany hard times. If you do not have an estate plan, now is a great time to put one in place.
THIS ARTICLE MAY NOT BE USED FOR PENALTY PROTECTION. *Randall A. Denha, j.d,, ll.m., principal and founder of the law firm of Denha & Associates, PLLC with offices in Birmingham, MI and West Bloomfield, MI. Mr. Denha continues to be recognized as a “Super Lawyer” by Michigan Super Lawyers in the areas of Trusts and Estates; a “Top Lawyer” by D Business Magazine in the areas of Estate Planning and Tax Law; a Five Star Wealth Planning Professional and a New York Times Top Attorney in Michigan. Mr. Denha can be reached at 248-265-4100 or by email at email@example.com