I’ve been in the security analysis profession for years, and that includes online security, and I’ve had people ask me how to manage their online existence so that there aren’t any problems should they meet up with death.
So I’m asking you: Ever thought of who’d get your assets should you meet an untimely death, or even if you’re 99 and sensing that the time to check out is very soon?
You may know whom you want to receive your assets, but do you know for sure that they actually will? After all, policyholders are not required to find out if the benefactor is deceased; they are only responsible for paying the claim when the beneficiary steps forward.
You must ensure that your beneficiary plans are airtight, which means you must do a lot more than just sign a number of papers outlining an estate plan and other instructions pertaining to end of life.
When it’s your time, will your beneficiaries know where to find your instructions? Will you unintentionally leave behind unclaimed policies?
Essentials for online existence management:
- Make out an original will.
- Make it clear who will inherit your assets.
- Make everything else crystal clear as well, since wills are often challenged by family members in court and subject to probate.
- Don’t wait till you’re sick or old, either; start this process now.
Maintain documentation of your ownership of the following:
- Housing (owner-occupied and rental)
- Cemetery plots
- Savings bonds
- Stock certificates
- Corporate or partnership operating agreements
- Escrow or brokerage mortgage accounts
Inform your family what you own. Otherwise, after you die, family members will be burdened trying to figure out everything you owned, and this includes scavenging through every piece of mail that comes to your home.
Managing your online existence isn’t the only thing you should do in case you die. To avoid hassles after your death, you should also practice management of paper-based documents and records.
- Provide family members with a list of all bank accounts as well as online log-in information. This way they can alert the bank to your death. An unused account will become a property of the state.
- Give your family information pertaining to safe-deposit or security boxes.
- Register your spouse’s name or child’s with your bank.
- Next, have your spouse and child sign the registration document; they’ll then be able to access your account without having to get a court order.
- Fill out a durable health care power-of-attorney form. This way, a person you designate can make decisions on your health care should you become incapacitated.
- Make sure the document complies with the federal health information privacy laws; this way medical professionals and insurance companies can communicate with the designee.
- Consider filling out an Authorization to Release Protected Healthcare Information form.
Taking these steps will prevent family members from having to go to court to get a guardian appointed.
Retirement Accounts and Life Insurance
- Make sure family members know your policy carrier name, number and agent.
- Find out if your employer grants life insurance policies, because often, these get missed by financial planners and end up never claimed.
Marriage and Divorce
- Your spouse must know where you keep your marriage license. If your spouse dies and you don’t know where the license is, you’ll likely need to pay for a new license and prove you were married to your deceased spouse before you can make a claim.
- Divorced individuals should make known their divorce judgment and decree (or the stipulation agreement if the case was settled out of court). These documents spell out alimony, child support and property settlements, and may also outline division of investment or retirement accounts.
Don’t delay in managing your online as well as hardcopy existence. Death is devastating enough without survivors having to drown in figuring out records.