It’s a good idea to get your financial life organized so a spouse or other family member can easily manage things, if necessary. Unfortunately, this task is often put on the back burner. Some people never get around to it, leaving grieving family members searching for documents to settle the estate or guessing passwords to unlock online accounts.
An organized financial life is a valuable gift you can give to loved ones. Here’s how:
Compile a contact list of key professionals. This includes your lawyer, doctor, accountant, financial advisor and insurance agent, but also people who provide maintenance services, such as the roofer, plumber, landscaper, painter, electrician and auto mechanic.Share passwords. Keep a file of passwords for online accounts and digital assets and let your spouse or another key family member know where it is. This gives access to online brokerage and bank accounts as well as social media accounts — without delay.Prepare key estate documents. Unless you want the state to dictate what happens to you and your assets, you need these critical documents:
Keep credit in your own name. To ensure you have uninterrupted access to credit, both spouses should have a credit card in their own name.
NOTE: Card companies frequently used to offer joint accounts. It’s more common now for the card to have one person as the primary owner while the other is an “authorized user.” The authorized user can use the card, but the account owner is responsible for the debt. Once the primary owner dies, the card is canceled. The authorized user can apply for a new card from the issuer, but the terms might not be as favorable as before.