Michelle Singletary: Help your loved ones by getting your financial house in order


WASHINGTON — When you’ve helped with as many funerals as I have, you understand how important it is for folks to organize their financial paperwork before it’s too late.

Maybe my story will help motivate you to gather your important documents to help your loved ones after you are gone.

My mother was injured in a home fire in 2014. As my sister and I were trying to figure out her financial situation after the blaze, we discovered she was entitled to almost a decade’s worth of back pension payments she hadn’t realized she could collect.

We had hoped to use the money to help pay for her recovery costs, but we were faced with the daunting task of locating all the paperwork we needed to complete her pension claim. My mother was in a medically induced coma so she couldn’t help us.

But we ran out of time.

About two months after the fire, my mother died from her injuries, and her heirs — her five surviving adult children — lost about $250,000. That’s because she died before the claim was complete, thereby forfeiting the back payments, which would have gone to her estate. Despite our efforts to get my mother to share her financial information long before the fire, she remained secretive and refused to get a will.

Life insurance payouts go unclaimed because beneficiaries aren’t aware of the policies, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, which established a search tool to help consumers find lost life insurance policies and annuities (https://eapps.naic.org/life-policy-locator/#/welcome).

What about that secret bank account where you stashed your emergency money? Would your family be able to locate it?

To make things easier for your family, put together a binder — or just write a letter — detailing what you own and owe. Here’s a list of the many documents people need to know about.

• Your will/trust. Where is it? Which attorney helped you prepare it? Tell people where they can find the document if you prepared a do-it-yourself version.

• Life-insurance policies. Don’t forget to include any policies paid for as part of your employment-benefit package.

• Veterans Affairs records. One summer my husband and I took care of his father, who had undergone major knee surgery. During his time with us, he shared with me a folder containing some important documents that he wanted me to hold on to in case anything happened. Among the items in the folder were …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Business News


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