Couples who have been married for a long time often fall into a routine regarding how the marital responsibilities are divided. This routine may also apply to financial responsibilities. One spouse may handle all of the investment responsibilities and the other may handle the household financial responsibilities such as monthly bill paying and checkbook balancing. Quite often, however, when one spouse dies unexpectedly and there is no written documentation and record-keeping, it can turn into a nightmare for the surviving spouse.
When a spouse passes, and he or she handled all investments, the surviving spouse may suddenly find him or herself unsure of what or where those investments, as well as other bank accounts, are located. He or she may also have issues gaining access to those accounts.
If a spouse passes, and he or she handled the day-to-day household bills, the surviving spouse may not have any idea what those bills are or even how to access their checking account information. In fact, with more people utilizing online account and bill-paying options, many surviving spouses cannot gain access to those accounts because they do not know the the required passwords.
There are steps, however, that couples can take to ensure that if something should happen to one of them, the other will not be faced with the stress of uncovering the financial unknowns. Gathering the information and putting it in one place is a step couples should take throughout their estate planning process.
To begin, couples should make a list of all accounts and passwords, including bank accounts and investment accounts. Additionally, the names of all stocks and bonds should be included with each investment account. Moreover, it is important to add all bills to this list and include those account numbers and passwords. Couples should update this list at least once each year.
It is also essential for couples to share all financial information with each other so they are both aware of their financial standing. This is especially true for any debts a couple may have. For example, if there is a credit card balance that one spouse does not know about when his or her spouse dies, it may throw the surviving spouse for an emotional loop, even if the balance is not that much.
Finally, it is important to not overlook a safe deposit key. Many couples use safe deposit boxes as a way to protect their valuables. If you choose to utilize a safe deposit box, make sure that the box is in both names. If not, legal ramifications may occur over who has access to that box. Also, both spouses should also know where the key is kept.
As simple as these steps may seem, the process of estate planning may feel daunting and it is easy to overlook the simple issues. Hence, it is important to contact an experienced DuPage County estate planning attorney to ensure that all of the estate planning issues that you and your family need to address are discussed and planned.