In the spirit of starting honest conversations on financial matters, I am going to take a brief deviation from the list of topics I originally had planned, to discuss an issue of importance that has come into focus for me in the past few months. It is not the most cheery of topics, but nonetheless it is important. As individuals, couples, and families it is necessary to be sure that all of your financial information is organized in case of emergencies.
Christmas Eve seemed like a typical night in our household, dinner, church, presents, and a Christmas movie. But just before Christmas day broke, I received a call from my dad. My mom (who we had seen hours before) collapsed. Four hours later, she was gone. As the dust settled a day or so later, I was grateful that my parents had talked my brother and I through this scenario. While these conversations had been abstract, I knew exactly where to look for documents, account information and the like. And I knew because my mom made sure that they were organized.
According to Gallup, only 44% of Americans reported having a will in 2016. This was down from 51% in 2004. Leaving behind no will not only creates delay and ambiguity in the settling of an estate, it also causes additional stress to loved ones. The information can be left behind in a variety of ways, including (but not limited to) a will, a letter of last instruction, a financial notebook or binder, or even a simple list. It is necessary to keep this information safe, but also accessible to those who will be in charge of taking care of your final affairs. I will go in depth on these possibilities in the future, but at this point I wanted to bring it up to get it on people’s minds and start a conversation.
I know that this isn’t a topic that anyone really wants to think about. It is much easier to look the other way. But I can also say with complete certainty that being organized in this matter will create a level of comfort and ease for loved ones in a time where nothing else is easy or comfortable.