Four Questions to Answer So Your Affairs Are in Order

Written by Jim Worthington on June 2, 2017

Estate planning is more than just having documents. Planning includes arranging your affairs to prevent leaving a mess behind for your family and friends. Here’s a list of questions that must be answered to see if you’re ready.

  1. Where are your documents? You need to share the location of important documents such as your will, power of attorney, health care directive, trusts, insurance policies (disability, long-term care, and life), and pre-paid funeral plan, so they can be accessed quickly when they’re needed.
  2. Can your safe be opened? If you have a safe, you need to share the combination or the location of the key.
  3. What accounts do you have? You should be able to provide a list of your accounts, both assets and liabilities.
  4. What are your passwords? A list of passwords is a vital, but often forgotten, planning item. At a minimum, you should write down your email password and perhaps print the answer to the security questions. This is especially important if you receive bills or account statements online. One simple way to accomplish this is to use a password manager app and keep the security key for it in your safe.

The persons named as attorney-in-fact in your power of attorney and as personal representative in your will should have access to this information. The power of attorney covers disability while you’re alive, and the will governs after your lifetime. Your spouse may be the primary person named in these roles. Where a spouse is not able to handle these jobs, or for unmarried people, you will have named someone else as the primary person. And everyone should have a backup to serve if the primary person can’t do so. This means you need to share very personal information with someone other than a spouse.

Older parents may need their children’s help with some of these projects. Asking a parent about finances can be touchy, but getting answers to these four questions doesn’t mean prying into the details about how much money there is and who it is going to.

The important thing is that answering these questions in advance means you’re leaving behind an easier job for your family and friends who will be grateful during a stressful time for your forethought.