Recently, I attended a funeral for a much-loved, elderly friend. He adored his wife and spoiled her every day. Throughout their marriage, he took care of the bills, handled their portfolio, and never bothered her with investment worries. However, after his passing, she found herself in the dark about their personal finances and did not even have the password to access their Quicken account. Days later, a family member was able to remedy this, but it was just the beginning of many financial mysteries left to be solved. This scenario is all too common, especially for the senior generation.

After a funeral, when the dining room table is covered in condolence cards and medical bills, the last thing a widowed spouse needs to worry about is how to access a password-protected financial account. Or worse, have to wonder if there are enough funds to cover incoming bills.

Fortunately, with some planning, there are steps we can take now to ensure our loved ones can easily access the information they need when this time comes..

With a trip to the store and a couple of hours, you can put together a financial book that will provide the key to unlocking your financial life. The sole purpose of this book is to record account numbers, approximate balances, mortgage information, contact names, retirement account institutions and everything in-between for those left to sort through our financial matters. A book with every account, every contact and every balance written down in black and white will greatly ease the frustrations of a bewildered spouse or executor of an estate.

The sooner you start, the better. Like a will, a well thought-out estate plan is essential. Grab a notebook and make a list of all of your personal financial life information and place it in a safety deposit box with your will. Some items to include:


  • Bank Account – institution, address, account numbers, passwords, balance range, Payable on Death names, phone number
  • Retirement Accounts – institution, address, phone number, password, beneficiary, balance range
  • Insurance Policies – company and agent names, phone numbers, account numbers, amounts, beneficiaries. Include in this list, life, home, car, umbrella, medical and any policy you own.
  • Stocks – brokerage firm, phone number, account number, stocks held, amount of stock, beneficiary
  • Employer – company contact, phone number, employee number. List any life insurance, stock options, survivor benefits and anything else that would be needed.
  • Credit cards – account numbers, passwords, phone numbers
  • Password to computers and any relevant accounts such as online banking, brokerage accounts, Quicken
  • Mortgages – institution, accounts, phone numbers, balances, location of deeds
  • Auto Loans – loan Holder, account number, phone numbers, balances, location of titles
  • Bonds – bond Issuer, account number, phone number, bond amount
  • Will – location of will, name of executor
  • Funeral instructions
  • Safety Deposit Box – bank, location of key, contents
  • Location of any hidden cash or jewelry in the house

While not extensive, this list is a good start. Remember, our financial lives can be complex and complicated. Ease the burden for your loved ones and leave behind the key to help them navigate your financial life.

Guest Contributor: Dana Chitwood, AFC®

July 21, 2016

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