By Lewis J. Walker, CFP®
You have accumulated all manner of stuff over the years. If something happened to you tomorrow, would the person stepping in know where everything important is? Most likely, no.
The youngest members of The Greatest Generation, born prior to 1946, turn age 71 in 2016. The Baby Boomer Generation that followed ranges in age from 52 to 70. Generation X, 1965-1984, ranges in age between 32 and 51. On the road of life, travelers to eternity along the way accumulate earthly possessions, documents, investments, benefits, insurance policies, etc. These items are critical to an orderly transition from life and health to potential incapacity prior to the certainty of death.
We laugh about the three stages of retirement: go-go, slow-go, no-go. However, the latter two stages are not respecters of age. You see the ads for Wounded Warrior Project. We know that young people, whether from war, accidents, drugs, other calamities, or physical and mental difficulties from birth, can suffer disabilities, incapacity, and premature death. Planning for the end game is important at any age, especially as you grow in net worth and obligations to family, loved ones, business and professional associates, or anyone who depends on you for their wellbeing.
We detail the Age Wave statistics above to make a point. Somewhere north of age 50, health status of self and loved ones invades one's consciousness. That's a big chunk of our population! Those in their late 40's and 50's worry about aging parents. Aging parents worry about themselves and grown or minor children or grandchildren with challenges. Women in their 50's and 60's notice the presence of more widows in their circle of acquaintances. A heart attack or bypass operation, cancer diagnosis, or other health threat is more likely as one ages, serving as a wakeup call.
You are in an ambulance at 3 a.m. on the way to the hospital. Who is your go-to person? Spouse, son, daughter, parent, close friend? Does he or she know what you want in terms of care? What to do in case of death? Have you had the conversation?
A friend, a minister, recently conducted a seminar for a church group on planning for incapacity and death. He said, "I even wrote my own obituary, and know what? I was a heck of a guy!"
Documents are important-powers of attorney for assets and health care, medical directive, will, trust documents, insurance policies, stock and bond certificates, military papers, veteran's benefits, deeds, citizenship papers, documentation of business interests, Social Security number and records.
Medicare records, passport, driver's license, pre- or post-nuptial agreements, divorce decrees, adoption papers, benefits from current or past employment, stock options, business interests, buyIsell agreements, etc.
Contact information for key advisers-attorney, accountant, financial planner, insurance agent, mortgage or other debt holder. What bills or debts need to be paid? Where is the information and the money?
Where is the comprehensive list of investment accounts, account numbers, custodians, tax basis data, beneficiary designations, passwords to access key data? A well-diversified investor is likely to have accounts all over the place. Do you have a safe deposit box? Where is the key? Combination to safe? Emergency funds hidden somewhere? Who has the password to your computer and/or cell phone? Other passwords?
Take a look at www.familyloveletter.com. The Family Love Letter was created by Roswell, GA, attorney John J. (Jeff) Scroggin and is a useful tool in pulling together comprehensive instructions for your loved ones and those who will step in during a crisis. Your financial planner can be of help in gathering data and documentation and in guiding conversations. Once you have pulled it all together, your advisor can help to facilitate a conversation with family members and loved ones.
Your goal is to give those you love the gift of clarity and confidence at a time of anxiety, stress, and potential loss. You want to leave a beautiful memory, not a mess!
Lewis Walker is President of Walker Capital Management, LLC. Securities and advisory services offered through The Strategic Financial Alliance, Inc. (SFA). Lewis Walker is a registered representative and investment adviser representative of SFA which is otherwise unaffiliated with Walker Capital Management, LLC.