Category Archives: Life and Death

Love Means…Check Your Beneficiaries

philly-love-2013-photo-by-dct Love means that you should check your beneficiaries. Establish a regular time of year to do this. Between February 1-14 sounds good to me. Maybe in alternate years, but begin soon, if you don’t already do this.

What documents should you review?

Employment Related Documents

Your current company retirement plan: 401k, 403b, 457, pension, HSA, or company provided life insurance. If self employed, your SEP, Profit Sharing, SIMPLE, solo 401k, IRA, Keogh plan (for older readers), or Defined Contribution or Defined Benefit plan.

Your previous employer’s retirement plans, if not consolidated into a new Rollover account. Reminder: don’t lose track of old retirement plans! Here is one link to try if you have lost track of one.

Which payout did you select for the retirement plan, the joint and survivor or the single life payout? I knew someone whose monthly income dropped 66% after their spouse died, due to the spouse taking ‘single life payout’, on not one but two different pensions. Please schedule a robust conversation with your spouse about this, well ahead of your deadline to choose a survivor benefit. Enter the conversation with good intentions and an ear for the emotions involved as well as the numbers.

Personal Documents

Documents from the last century, related to a previous marriage, or that first IRA you opened up right out of college. (You did that, right?) Life insurance you hold that was purchased for you originally by your parents (when you were single). Life insurance purchased while in your child-rearing years. Or, now that you are single again, dig out the list of things you were going to change after the divorce was final.

Here’s a link with suggestions for finding an old life insurance plan. This article from Consumer Reports also highlights the popular site www.missingmoney.com where.  you can search for reported abandoned property. People I know have found utility deposit refunds, last employer paychecks, old bank accounts, uncashed dividend checks etc.

Transition Related Documents

Did someone else pass away and leave you assets? This could mean changes of your beneficiaries, or changes in your wills. Did you become a parent, or parents for the first time, or for the fifth time? Did you blend two families?

Was there a layoff or period of unemployment? You may wish to redirect your assets closer to home.  Was there a windfall? Did you win the lottery or get a very large bonus? Do you wish to give to charity or become a first time philanthropist?

Love means you are willing to review what would happen to your family when you are gone. Give your beloveds (and you) the gift of a review and doing some homework regularly to ensure your assets are distributed correctly. Remember, it’s great to have your intent known verbally,  but also review your beneficiaries to see that your goals and your documents match.

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Filed under Be Prepared, February Financial Task, For Love or Money, Life and Death, Uncategorized

How Do I Love Thee (Post Valentines Day Edition)

How Do I Love Thee? On Paper, Online and On Time

In life and in death, let me count the ways that I love thee.  Let’s review the beneficiaries, the online accounts, and the papers.

Rosemary is for Remembrance

Rosemary is for Remembrance. Wikimedia

To paraphrase Meghan Trainor, modern philosopher:

It’s all about that signature

It’s all about survivorship

It’s all about that heir, no trouble.

When you love someone, you are told you should have “your affairs in order”.

This is much harder to do than say. What affairs, what is order?

When you have a family, you want to look ahead into a future where you may not be in the picture.

“Yikes, this means I have to pretend I am dead; that makes me uncomfortable and I’ll just hope nothing happens.”

It’s going to happen, trust me. Photo credit: http://www.pdpics.com 4211

This is a common reaction, due to your present, your past or reluctance to look too far into that uncertain future. I have met many people who think that they don’t need to consider these things, because “they don’t have any assets”, “they don’t have any children”, or all they have are the photos on their Facebook and Instagram pages. But you do, you do! You have your organs, your online life and photos, and your entire financial life to care for and secure.

You may have missed the opportunity to send roses or a sentimental card this past weekend, but here are several steps to take in this next week, to say “I love you” to those special people in your life. I’d like to help you move into action!

On paper: Check your retirement plan beneficiaries at work and for your personal retirement accounts. Do the beneficiaries match up with your current sweetie and family? Just sayin’. By the way, for those of you with older pension plans (could be frozen, or discontinued), check those too and keep a copy of the beneficiary page.) You can keep a paper copy, scan or photograph, then store in your cloud somewhere.

Real life story: This just happened to a friend-her husband hadn’t updated his old pension plan documents when he got married. When he passed away suddenly in 2014, his cousins were still his beneficiaries, not his wife. These cousins were sympathetic, but not all relatives would be as thoughtful.

It is important to create, review, or update important documents (will, power of attorney, health care directives) before any major life transitions. This probably also applies to people who take part in extreme sports, marathons, and those races in the mud. If you are in the military, they will place you in a workshop with your significant other to cover many things like this before deployment.

Online: However, online access may still be a problem. In real life, (IRL) your loved ones do not have the access to your emails, online accounts and photos that spammers or identity thieves do. In the Terms and Conditions of our online accounts, there is usually a line or two which explains this privacy policy. Google has tried to fix this with their Inactive Account Manager, and just last week Facebook offered the opportunity to set up a Legacy Contact after your death is proven. Yahoo Japan launched a service to manage your digital profile after you die. https://ending.yahoo.co.jp/ See if you want to set up one of these contacts.

Real life story: http://cnet.co/1Mn3RPO Yahoo denies family access to dead Marine’s email.

 On Time: This has to do with matching your documents and decisions to your actions. Wedding coming up? Do you need to alter your current will and property distribution? Would the laws of your state (and your family) allow your loved one to make medical decisions for you and visit you in the hospital?

Real life story: a relative with a terminal illness lived into the last month of his car loan, so his wife didn’t have to  worry about that last payment. This relative also hadn’t changed two pieces of property to be jointly owned with his [second] wife, so altering those property deeds occupied some stressful hours of his last days.

Love in a box, or a document, or in your will...

Love in a box, or a document, or in your will…

PS For those readers who may have several kinds of pensions (military, Social Security, employer plans), it is important to check the pension payouts with your spouse. For example, will you choose a single life or joint and survivor payout? A single life payout goes for one person’s (the retired employee) life. A joint and survivor payout is calculated over the joint life expectancies of the couple. It is usually less than the single life payout, but it provides a lifetime income for the survivor. See definition of joint life payout from Investopedia here.

If this post inspires you to take action, from creating new documents to reviewing existing ones, you will feel better afterwards. It might feel uncomfortable at first, but the relief generated upon accomplishment will feel wonderful. Plus, your family members will thank you for remembering them.  Get from To-Do to To-Done! (Shout out to https://transmutable.com for my first To-Done experience.)

Related links

http://organdonor.gov/index.html 

http://www.usa.gov/topics/money/personal-finance/wills.shtml

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/advancedirectives.html

http://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/powerofattorney.asp

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Filed under Be Prepared, Everyday Financial Tasks, Life and Death