How to make it easier for spouse upon death

Non-investing personal finance issues including insurance, credit, real estate, taxes, employment and legal issues such as trusts and wills.
Topic Author
2comma
Posts: 1241
Joined: Thu Jul 15, 2010 11:37 pm

How to make it easier for spouse upon death

Post by 2comma »

Like many DIY'ers here one of us does most of the heavy lifting when it comes to retirement planning and the other has, should we say, less interest. What can i do to set things up to smooth the transition upon my death? I am sure others have thought about this. What have you done?

We have setup wills and have a simple Vanguard investment plan but I am thinking it would be useful if we could find someone to act as a trusted advisor, especially during the transition period and then occasionally thereafter if needed. Would you try to find a FA, estate lawyer, knowledgable friend or relative or just tell them to ask on the Bogleheads forum?

It's not that my spouse is not capable and I don't want to come across as the over protective one - it just makes sense to me, as the current planner in the family, to make this as painless as possible. If she avoid's the common pitfalls of investing I will consider our plan successful.

Rick
If I am stupid I will pay.
User avatar
cheese_breath
Posts: 11820
Joined: Wed Sep 14, 2011 7:08 pm

Re: How to make it easier for spouse upon death

Post by cheese_breath »

I maintain a Word document which I update frequently identifying everything we have and where I keep it.. Such as wills, car titles, home papers, insurance policies, credit cards, bank and investment accounts, accounts paid by auto withdrawal from our checking account, computerized spreadsheets, etc. There's also a section explaining my investment philosophy and why I have the investments I have. Other than Email and eBay she's not that computer literate so I told both her son and son in law where I keep the disk copy so they can print it for her.
The surest way to know the future is when it becomes the past.
Robert44
Posts: 164
Joined: Mon Nov 23, 2009 6:33 pm

Re: How to make it easier for spouse upon death

Post by Robert44 »

I have just been through this with my mom.
My suggestions: Make out a will, or a trust. Have a list of all your investments, names, addresses, phone numbers, account numbers. Make sure your wife knows any specific wishes you want.
I would suggest making and paying for burial arrangements and the specifics of what you want, ie: cremation, viewing visitation, body donated to science, etc. If you want a funeral, specific prayers or songs, even who you may want as pallbears.
Make sure you have a living will and power of attorney for medical decisions.
Let her know who to contact if you have a pension and to cancel all insurance policies, and collect on any life insurance policies.
Give her a list of all the people that should be notified when you pass.
If you own property (house, etc.) she will have to put that in her name. Meaning a visit to the courthouse, usually.
I am sure I have forgotten something, but know soneone else with let you know on this site.
Hope this helps a little.
kaneohe
Posts: 6786
Joined: Mon Sep 22, 2008 12:38 pm

Re: How to make it easier for spouse upon death

Post by kaneohe »

This article is about helping the newly widowed but perhaps you could anticipate that and do some of the prep while you are still here.
http://www.aicpa.org/publications/taxad ... mar12.aspx
Can you prepare a list of action items that you know will need to be done for the transition?
Would spouse be willing to be apprentice for a month (or week?) just to get a feeling for how things work? Perhaps they might be more
interested than you think but don't want to tread on your turf.....they might not remember all the details but having seen it a few times might
make picking it up later easier.

Maybe prepare a list of what not to do items and why along w/ your list of what you do and why.
Topic Author
2comma
Posts: 1241
Joined: Thu Jul 15, 2010 11:37 pm

Re: How to make it easier for spouse upon death

Post by 2comma »

All posts helped, thank you for your input. I need to make sure she has all information and the passwords!
If I am stupid I will pay.
User avatar
desertbandit442
Posts: 162
Joined: Mon Feb 20, 2012 7:41 am

Re: How to make it easier for spouse upon death

Post by desertbandit442 »

cheese_breath wrote:I maintain a Word document which I update frequently identifying everything we have and where I keep it.. Such as wills, car titles, home papers, insurance policies, credit cards, bank and investment accounts, accounts paid by auto withdrawal from our checking account, computerized spreadsheets, etc. There's also a section explaining my investment philosophy and why I have the investments I have. Other than Email and eBay she's not that computer literate so I told both her son and son in law where I keep the disk copy so they can print it for her.
About the same, except I did it on Kiplinger's "Your Family Records Organizer" CD and printed a copy to put in file drawer. Also included a document on investment philosophy and what she should do for the first year with investmants, plus I wrote my obituary for her (I know she would have a hard time doing that).
User avatar
Hexdump
Posts: 1626
Joined: Fri Oct 10, 2008 7:28 am
Location: Houston, Texas

Re: How to make it easier for spouse upon death

Post by Hexdump »

I did pretty much the same.
Keep a Password Protected "When I Die" document with all accounts, user IDs and passwords, and a pointer to the financial software that I use for all our records.
Our son, a computer nerd knows how to get into the software.

We just had a discussion this past weekend. We = me, wife, and son, about who she will turn to for financial advice when I pass.
Wife suggested that son get up to speed so that he can be an adviser. I don't think that's ever going to happen so have been planning an alternative.
Wife herself tends to get reactionary, (market tanks, IT'S TIME TO BUY !!), so she will need someone to monitor the plan.
We have a young lady friend (YLF) whom my wife thinks of as an adopted daughter. The YLF also feels the same way about my wife.
This YLF does pay attention to finances and has a good head for this stuff.
I plan to approach her with the idea of her being an adviser to my wife.
dbr
Posts: 46292
Joined: Sun Mar 04, 2007 8:50 am

Re: How to make it easier for spouse upon death

Post by dbr »

Hexdump wrote:I did pretty much the same.
Keep a Password Protected "When I Die" document with all accounts, user IDs and passwords, and a pointer to the financial software that I use for all our records.
Our son, a computer nerd knows how to get into the software.

We just had a discussion this past weekend. We = me, wife, and son, about who she will turn to for financial advice when I pass.
Wife suggested that son get up to speed so that he can be an adviser. I don't think that's ever going to happen so have been planning an alternative.
Wife herself tends to get reactionary, (market tanks, IT'S TIME TO BUY !!), so she will need someone to monitor the plan.
We have a young lady friend (YLF) whom my wife thinks of as an adopted daughter. The YLF also feels the same way about my wife.
This YLF does pay attention to finances and has a good head for this stuff.
I plan to approach her with the idea of her being an adviser to my wife.
Knowing someone trusted to whom one is going to turn seems to me to be essential. For people with children one would hope the support would be there. Sometimes it is not. The same hazards apply with trusted non-family members, but in the end we have to count on our friends and relatives.
scone
Posts: 1457
Joined: Wed Jul 11, 2012 4:46 pm

Re: How to make it easier for spouse upon death

Post by scone »

I've been "training" my husband to understand what I've tried to do with our investments. I've put together a plan for our estate-- it's all in process and under control. But I still worry.

I worry about him, because he's an "absent minded professor" with health issues and no business sense. At the same time, I know that mindless worrying will only spoil whatever time we have together. I know I need to let go and trust that everything is going to be all right. But I'm not there yet.
"My bond allocation is the amount of money that I cannot afford to lose." -- Taylor Larimore
Rubiosa
Posts: 269
Joined: Mon May 19, 2008 9:58 am

Re: How to make it easier for spouse upon death

Post by Rubiosa »

Very good advice from everybody above, especially robert 44.

My spouse was shall we say less than motivated to get into the nitty-gritty of our finances, learn the computer, etc., but I coaxed her along, encouraged her, worked patiently with her, etc., and she is now fully up to speed, so much so, in fact, that she is now fully in charge of finances. I'd encourage you to not give up.
User avatar
soaring
Posts: 1441
Joined: Sun Nov 18, 2007 8:09 am
Location: North Central Florida

Re: How to make it easier for spouse upon death

Post by soaring »

rickmerrill wrote:All posts helped, thank you for your input. I need to make sure she has all information and the passwords!
My spouse doesn't use a computer. Annually I update a word & excel document. After it is printed and we review it together it is kept in our safety deposit box. The word doc includes every vendor and contact ph # such as utilities, car ins, etc. Some of the info is prioritized such as Social Security contact.

Much of the contact info is so she can stop on-line delivery of statements, etc. There is also an excel grid showing which bills are automatically paid since we have no mail bills except property taxes. This combined with the word doc guides her through the process.
Desiderata
passerby
Posts: 6
Joined: Sat Aug 23, 2008 1:29 pm

Obit

Post by passerby »

Rick, it is nice to have a colorful appealing obit,
but
some people search obits and glean enough to make ID theft easy, your ID.
You of course don't know, but your spouse is perhaps left with a mess, while grieving.

So to prevent that, a minimal but legal obit works or
one that is a bit vague on detail yet accurate enough so those who knew you, can recognize that you have passed.

Its not a pleasant thought but it is a sign of the times.

best, David
Default User BR
Posts: 7502
Joined: Mon Dec 17, 2007 6:32 pm

Re: How to make it easier for spouse upon death

Post by Default User BR »

Login information should only be available for joint accounts. Individual ones should not be accessed after you die. The custodian might well consider that some sort of identify theft is going on and lock the accounts.


Brian
gd
Posts: 1638
Joined: Sun Nov 15, 2009 7:35 am
Location: MA, USA

Re: How to make it easier for spouse upon death

Post by gd »

Same issue, probably more extreme than most. I do the lists and instructions, which can be as useful to me as my spouse. I'm also slowly simplifying our investments and affairs generally, and my intent is that in the later stages, when my capabilities decline, we'll shift a lot to annuities. I do not share the dislike by others here of variable annuities, for that reason- it gives her something safely in the bag if I disappear suddenly. Unless you have children you absolutely trust the financial skills of, planning to live off self-managed investments into doddering old age just makes no sense to me.
User avatar
Taylor Larimore
Posts: 32848
Joined: Tue Feb 27, 2007 7:09 pm
Location: Miami FL

Re: How to make it easier for spouse upon death

Post by Taylor Larimore »

How to make it easier for spouse upon death.
Keep investing simple.

A single Vanguard Target Retirement Fund in a tax-advantaged account could be the ultimate portfolio.

Best wishes
Taylor
"Simplicity is the master key to financial success." -- Jack Bogle
Bill M
Posts: 440
Joined: Sun Dec 30, 2012 9:10 pm

Re: How to make it easier for spouse upon death

Post by Bill M »

cheese_breath wrote:I maintain a Word document which I update frequently identifying everything we have and where I keep it.. Such as wills, car titles, home papers, insurance policies, credit cards, bank and investment accounts, accounts paid by auto withdrawal from our checking account, computerized spreadsheets, etc. There's also a section explaining my investment philosophy and why I have the investments I have. Other than Email and eBay she's not that computer literate so I told both her son and son in law where I keep the disk copy so they can print it for her.
The modern way is, of course, paperless. But some things should really be on paper. This is one of them. Not only do I keep such a MSWord document, I keep an up-to-date printed copy where it will be found if needed.
User avatar
cheese_breath
Posts: 11820
Joined: Wed Sep 14, 2011 7:08 pm

Re: How to make it easier for spouse upon death

Post by cheese_breath »

Bill M wrote:
cheese_breath wrote:I maintain a Word document which I update frequently identifying everything we have and where I keep it.. Such as wills, car titles, home papers, insurance policies, credit cards, bank and investment accounts, accounts paid by auto withdrawal from our checking account, computerized spreadsheets, etc. There's also a section explaining my investment philosophy and why I have the investments I have. Other than Email and eBay she's not that computer literate so I told both her son and son in law where I keep the disk copy so they can print it for her.
The modern way is, of course, paperless. But some things should really be on paper. This is one of them. Not only do I keep such a MSWord document, I keep an up-to-date printed copy where it will be found if needed.
My document also contains a listing of every website I or my wife use and their passwords. It is too large and updated too frequently to reprint every time it changes. However, in addition to the individuals already told how to print it. I do have hard copy instructions for printing it in my desk. BTW, there is also a duplicate copy of the Word file in case the original goes bad.
The surest way to know the future is when it becomes the past.
Levett
Posts: 4177
Joined: Fri Feb 23, 2007 1:10 pm
Location: upper Midwest

Re: How to make it easier for spouse upon death

Post by Levett »

Lots of excellent suggestions, but we have found that having an excellent family lawyer (as part of a large law firm 'cause individual lawyers die just like the rest of us :( ) is indispensable.

All family members have letters of instruction that include essential information, including the name of the law firm in whose vault all originals of every important document have been deposited (along with copies deposited in our personal safe deposit boxes).

For many years, we have done regular reviews of these documents to make sure they reflect current circumstances--both personal and in light of whatever changes in the law that have occurred.

Lev
reggiesimpson
Posts: 1697
Joined: Mon Dec 19, 2011 11:47 am

Re: How to make it easier for spouse upon death

Post by reggiesimpson »

Take a look at WSJ Weekend Investor Feb 2/2013 "What a Tangled Web We Leave". May have to hit the library if you dont get delivery. All about the surviving spouse.
User avatar
tadamsmar
Posts: 9977
Joined: Mon May 07, 2007 12:33 pm

Re: How to make it easier for spouse upon death

Post by tadamsmar »

rickmerrill wrote:All posts helped, thank you for your input. I need to make sure she has all information and the passwords!
That may make it harder for your spouse upon death. You need to learn the proper process of the execution of an estate.

Vanguard personal accounts are suppose be converted to other account(s) based on the benficiary designation. Dead men are not suppose to magically start accessing their accounts. I think there are tax issues when the dead do transactions. Sharing your password is a violation of Vanguard online fraud policy and puts your fraud reimbursement guarantee at risk:

https://personal.vanguard.com/us/help/S ... ontent.jsp

Here's some info on the proper steps after the loss of a loved one:

https://retirementplans.vanguard.com/VG ... Spouse.jsf
dbr
Posts: 46292
Joined: Sun Mar 04, 2007 8:50 am

Re: How to make it easier for spouse upon death

Post by dbr »

Some people laugh at it, but we have arranged that each of us has at least some assets in absolutely our own name and accounts, including individual credit card accounts.
User avatar
tadamsmar
Posts: 9977
Joined: Mon May 07, 2007 12:33 pm

Re: How to make it easier for spouse upon death

Post by tadamsmar »

dbr wrote:Some people laugh at it, but we have arranged that each of us has at least some assets in absolutely our own name and accounts, including individual credit card accounts.
I thought that properly designated joint accounts made it easier for the spouse at death. Please explain.
User avatar
tadamsmar
Posts: 9977
Joined: Mon May 07, 2007 12:33 pm

Re: How to make it easier for spouse upon death

Post by tadamsmar »

I think most basic the general process is for the executor and beneficiaries to contact the companies holding assets and follow their instructions.

These instructions will not include logging into personal accounts of the deceased.

I executed as couple of estates before the internet days, and I never had to falsely assume the identity of the deceased during the process.
delamer
Posts: 17581
Joined: Tue Feb 08, 2011 5:13 pm

Re: How to make it easier for spouse upon death

Post by delamer »

My father put together a loose-leaf binder with copies of investments, pension, and life and health insurance information. It had all the account numbers and contact information that my mother needed. I would favor hard copies if the surviving spouse isn’t computer literate. (My parents didn’t own a computer so that was a non-issue for them.)

Planning for the immediate issues following death is important, but the long-term planning is at least as critical.

For estate tax purposes, my father’s half of their holdings went into a trust that benefits my mother during her lifetime but which I am the ultimate beneficiary of (only child). The investments in the trust are managed by a local bank, as are a large portion of the rest of my mother’s holdings. But about 1/3 of her money is held in various CD’s at a credit union.

While I am not keen on paying the bank’s fees – being the boglehead type with my family's investments – I have come to see this setup as an advantage.

First, the fees are reasonable and my mother has access to people who actually come to her home and talk about her investments’ performance with her. The bank is doing a decent job of balancing her need for income and mine for growth in the trust.

Second, if the bank was not controlling the money then my mother would have to manage it herself. That would have been problematic when she was first widowed; now that she is in her 90’s, it could be disastrous. She does not have dementia, but she is certainly not sharp enough (nor does she have the experience) to make good decisions about investments. And while I agree with Taylor’s idea of a Vanguard Target Retirement Fund above, I don’t think my mother would be capable of “leaving well enough alone” even if I could have convinced her to invest in that way. If she reads something negative about a company that the bank has bought stock in for her account, she thinks the bank should sell the stock. She chased around town for awhile to get a slightly better rate on a CD even though it meant having to deal with a different bank. Despite my reassurances, she is constantly worried about outliving her money even though she lives very comfortably on just the income from the investments made by the bank (withdrawal rate of less than 3% at year).

Having the bank as a neutral third party has been worth the cost for me. Ironically, she doesn't remember being consulted about setting up the trust even though she was.
One thing that humbles me deeply is to see that human genius has its limits while human stupidity does not. - Alexandre Dumas, fils
dbr
Posts: 46292
Joined: Sun Mar 04, 2007 8:50 am

Re: How to make it easier for spouse upon death

Post by dbr »

tadamsmar wrote:
dbr wrote:Some people laugh at it, but we have arranged that each of us has at least some assets in absolutely our own name and accounts, including individual credit card accounts.
I thought that properly designated joint accounts made it easier for the spouse at death. Please explain.
It is simply that when a person holds assets absolutely in their own name no interaction whatsoever is required with anyone or anything to keep using those accounts when someone dies. Even joint accounts need to be processed on the death of one of the holders. If anything should arise, it won't on an individual account.

I agree it is probably the case that a joint account as such is easier to process than an individual account for the other person, POD/TOD, or whatever. In any case retirement accounts, pensions, and annuities are individual by definiton, so that will always be there.
exoilman
Posts: 881
Joined: Wed Oct 15, 2008 1:38 pm
Location: New Jersey

Re: How to make it easier for spouse upon death

Post by exoilman »

thanks for some great input. My wife will be getting some input from our Fidelity rep. He knows how I invest including all our Vanguard accounts. That along with my instructions for her to follow rebalancing etc.should work for us.


Sam
denismurf
Posts: 544
Joined: Wed Sep 19, 2007 6:29 pm

Re: How to make it easier for spouse upon death

Post by denismurf »

The biggest source of financial grief when my spouse died was that we had not updated our wills and trusts to take into account our move to a community property state. So, if you now live in a different state from where you originally wrote your death documents, check that out and rewrite if necessary.
Topic Author
2comma
Posts: 1241
Joined: Thu Jul 15, 2010 11:37 pm

Re: How to make it easier for spouse upon death

Post by 2comma »

cheese_breath wrote:I maintain a Word document which I update frequently identifying everything we have and where I keep it.. Such as wills, car titles, home papers, insurance policies, credit cards, bank and investment accounts, accounts paid by auto withdrawal from our checking account, computerized spreadsheets, etc. There's also a section explaining my investment philosophy and why I have the investments I have. Other than Email and eBay she's not that computer literate so I told both her son and son in law where I keep the disk copy so they can print it for her.
Good stuff. We are in pretty good shape here but I will make sure I get all of the detail stuff documented correctly so she can easily find details of everything. I have an ISP and we need to sit down and discuss that and make sure she understands it knows how to get to it. Thanks.
If I am stupid I will pay.
Topic Author
2comma
Posts: 1241
Joined: Thu Jul 15, 2010 11:37 pm

Re: How to make it easier for spouse upon death

Post by 2comma »

Robert44 wrote:I have just been through this with my mom.
My suggestions: Make out a will, or a trust. Have a list of all your investments, names, addresses, phone numbers, account numbers. Make sure your wife knows any specific wishes you want.
I would suggest making and paying for burial arrangements and the specifics of what you want, ie: cremation, viewing visitation, body donated to science, etc. If you want a funeral, specific prayers or songs, even who you may want as pallbears.
Make sure you have a living will and power of attorney for medical decisions.
Let her know who to contact if you have a pension and to cancel all insurance policies, and collect on any life insurance policies.
Give her a list of all the people that should be notified when you pass.
If you own property (house, etc.) she will have to put that in her name. Meaning a visit to the courthouse, usually.
I am sure I have forgotten something, but know soneone else with let you know on this site.
Hope this helps a little.
I need to polish up on some of the legal/financial details as mentioned above and discuss and document better. I had not thought about the nitty-gritty details of funerals and such. I need to look into that in more detail and I will - I do have that one song I'd like to hear one last time! It would be smart to set this up ahead of time or at least have some instructions of what to do and how to go about it. I need to add some contacts that she would not know about. We split up many of the expenses so she is capable and prepared to take care of those things. Thank you for the advice.
If I am stupid I will pay.
Topic Author
2comma
Posts: 1241
Joined: Thu Jul 15, 2010 11:37 pm

Re: How to make it easier for spouse upon death

Post by 2comma »

kaneohe wrote:This article is about helping the newly widowed but perhaps you could anticipate that and do some of the prep while you are still here.
http://www.aicpa.org/publications/taxad ... mar12.aspx
Can you prepare a list of action items that you know will need to be done for the transition?
Would spouse be willing to be apprentice for a month (or week?) just to get a feeling for how things work? Perhaps they might be more
interested than you think but don't want to tread on your turf.....they might not remember all the details but having seen it a few times might
make picking it up later easier.

Maybe prepare a list of what not to do items and why along w/ your list of what you do and why.
Thank you for the link, i will study it. Action items is exactly what I think I should do. She is a project management type and it would be a great idea to give her a list of things to do - may help psychologically to - I need to get her to do that for me just in case. I can't exactly explain it but she really wants this planning/investing stuff to be my job. I don't mind it, she contributes to the marriage more than me. I just want to get her up to speed and prepared. I'm about to retire and she procrastinates on helping me plan her future by sitting down and figuring her expenses. Not sure what is up with that. I will keep up the pressure to help get her up to speed on this, I just haven't found the the magic way yet. There is no way she is incapable.

Yes, a list of do's and don'ts is needs to be documented in boldface. She's not going to get investment advice from an insurance agent or a broker and she won't ever watch Jim Cramer - I'll start haunting someone if that happens. Thank you for the input.
If I am stupid I will pay.
Topic Author
2comma
Posts: 1241
Joined: Thu Jul 15, 2010 11:37 pm

Re: How to make it easier for spouse upon death

Post by 2comma »

desertbandit442 wrote:
cheese_breath wrote:I maintain a Word document which I update frequently identifying everything we have and where I keep it.. Such as wills, car titles, home papers, insurance policies, credit cards, bank and investment accounts, accounts paid by auto withdrawal from our checking account, computerized spreadsheets, etc. There's also a section explaining my investment philosophy and why I have the investments I have. Other than Email and eBay she's not that computer literate so I told both her son and son in law where I keep the disk copy so they can print it for her.
About the same, except I did it on Kiplinger's "Your Family Records Organizer" CD and printed a copy to put in file drawer. Also included a document on investment philosophy and what she should do for the first year with investmants, plus I wrote my obituary for her (I know she would have a hard time doing that).
Will look into the records organizer, good idea. I have a very dry wit, she is too smart to repeat anything I say or write and I don't think the paper would publish it anyway. In all seriousness that is a good idea.
If I am stupid I will pay.
Topic Author
2comma
Posts: 1241
Joined: Thu Jul 15, 2010 11:37 pm

Re: How to make it easier for spouse upon death

Post by 2comma »

Hexdump wrote:I did pretty much the same.
Keep a Password Protected "When I Die" document with all accounts, user IDs and passwords, and a pointer to the financial software that I use for all our records.
Our son, a computer nerd knows how to get into the software.

We just had a discussion this past weekend. We = me, wife, and son, about who she will turn to for financial advice when I pass.
Wife suggested that son get up to speed so that he can be an adviser. I don't think that's ever going to happen so have been planning an alternative.
Wife herself tends to get reactionary, (market tanks, IT'S TIME TO BUY !!), so she will need someone to monitor the plan.
We have a young lady friend (YLF) whom my wife thinks of as an adopted daughter. The YLF also feels the same way about my wife.
This YLF does pay attention to finances and has a good head for this stuff.
I plan to approach her with the idea of her being an adviser to my wife.
Yes I think a simple document with all of my thought processes, wishes and whims is the way to go. I need to have a discussion with my wife and son together about all of this - they are the two key players. We have both decided, and put it in our wills, that our assets will be split 50/50 between the surviving spouse and other family members. I have a lot of questions and concerns about this plan. The most important thing to me is that no ill will is generated; she is not my son's mother. This issue is a whole new thread.

My son is no where near being ready to take on this task, like you, I'm not sure that will ever happen and he will be involved as a beneficiary so I think it will require an impassioned third party. I am thinking about candidates that would be able and willing to take on this task. So far I have a lawyer that is a friend of my wife and a sister that has a good financial background and a good head on her shoulders. I will also investigate good legal assistance.

Oh, I assume you will compensate the YLY for her assistance?
If I am stupid I will pay.
Topic Author
2comma
Posts: 1241
Joined: Thu Jul 15, 2010 11:37 pm

Re: How to make it easier for spouse upon death

Post by 2comma »

dbr wrote:
Hexdump wrote:I did pretty much the same.
Keep a Password Protected "When I Die" document with all accounts, user IDs and passwords, and a pointer to the financial software that I use for all our records.
Our son, a computer nerd knows how to get into the software.

We just had a discussion this past weekend. We = me, wife, and son, about who she will turn to for financial advice when I pass.
Wife suggested that son get up to speed so that he can be an adviser. I don't think that's ever going to happen so have been planning an alternative.
Wife herself tends to get reactionary, (market tanks, IT'S TIME TO BUY !!), so she will need someone to monitor the plan.
We have a young lady friend (YLF) whom my wife thinks of as an adopted daughter. The YLF also feels the same way about my wife.
This YLF does pay attention to finances and has a good head for this stuff.
I plan to approach her with the idea of her being an adviser to my wife.
Knowing someone trusted to whom one is going to turn seems to me to be essential. For people with children one would hope the support would be there. Sometimes it is not. The same hazards apply with trusted non-family members, but in the end we have to count on our friends and relatives.
Thank you dbr, I have benefited from many of your posts over the years. I am a DIY'er for almost everything. As I age I know I need to cultivate the ability to trust and negotiate well with others and maintain my networks. This is probably my greatest challenge going forward. You are right, in the end we do have to count on our friends and relatives.
If I am stupid I will pay.
Topic Author
2comma
Posts: 1241
Joined: Thu Jul 15, 2010 11:37 pm

Re: How to make it easier for spouse upon death

Post by 2comma »

scone wrote:I've been "training" my husband to understand what I've tried to do with our investments. I've put together a plan for our estate-- it's all in process and under control. But I still worry.

I worry about him, because he's an "absent minded professor" with health issues and no business sense. At the same time, I know that mindless worrying will only spoil whatever time we have together. I know I need to let go and trust that everything is going to be all right. But I'm not there yet.
Scone,
My favorite post! I tried hard not to say "my wife" in the OP so many of us guys come across that way. I got a kick out of the absent minded professor analogy. I too will be working on the education and transfer of knowledge. I am sure they will be ok even if they don't always do it our way. Enjoying the time together is what it's all about. Thanks for reminding me.
If I am stupid I will pay.
Topic Author
2comma
Posts: 1241
Joined: Thu Jul 15, 2010 11:37 pm

Re: How to make it easier for spouse upon death

Post by 2comma »

Rubiosa wrote:Very good advice from everybody above, especially robert 44.

My spouse was shall we say less than motivated to get into the nitty-gritty of our finances, learn the computer, etc., but I coaxed her along, encouraged her, worked patiently with her, etc., and she is now fully up to speed, so much so, in fact, that she is now fully in charge of finances. I'd encourage you to not give up.
Oh no, I haven't given up but the motivation is not there yet. Just trying to say the right thing at the right time in the right way. I am challenged that way but so far she finds me entertaining enough to keep around. I know how lucky I am.
If I am stupid I will pay.
Topic Author
2comma
Posts: 1241
Joined: Thu Jul 15, 2010 11:37 pm

Re: How to make it easier for spouse upon death

Post by 2comma »

tadamsmar wrote:
rickmerrill wrote:All posts helped, thank you for your input. I need to make sure she has all information and the passwords!
That may make it harder for your spouse upon death. You need to learn the proper process of the execution of an estate.

Vanguard personal accounts are suppose be converted to other account(s) based on the benficiary designation. Dead men are not suppose to magically start accessing their accounts. I think there are tax issues when the dead do transactions. Sharing your password is a violation of Vanguard online fraud policy and puts your fraud reimbursement guarantee at risk:

https://personal.vanguard.com/us/help/S ... ontent.jsp

Here's some info on the proper steps after the loss of a loved one:

https://retirementplans.vanguard.com/VG ... Spouse.jsf
Point well taken, I completely missed this. I'm sure there are special tax laws for dead traders! Actually what I should have conveyed is that I make sure all of our accounts are easy to find out about and that we both know how to go about contacting the right institution when we need to. I just realized that neither of us has updated our company pension plan beneficiary information, stupid. I am not sure we have done this for all of our other accounts or not either, really stupid! Thank you for this wake up call.
If I am stupid I will pay.
Topic Author
2comma
Posts: 1241
Joined: Thu Jul 15, 2010 11:37 pm

Re: How to make it easier for spouse upon death

Post by 2comma »

soaring wrote:
rickmerrill wrote:All posts helped, thank you for your input. I need to make sure she has all information and the passwords!
My spouse doesn't use a computer. Annually I update a word & excel document. After it is printed and we review it together it is kept in our safety deposit box. The word doc includes every vendor and contact ph # such as utilities, car ins, etc. Some of the info is prioritized such as Social Security contact.

Much of the contact info is so she can stop on-line delivery of statements, etc. There is also an excel grid showing which bills are automatically paid since we have no mail bills except property taxes. This combined with the word doc guides her through the process.
We have gone paperless. The downside, which you pointed out, is that without information about everything there is no paper trail coming in the mail to alert someone of a bill or an account if they were not already aware of it. Someone that doesn't have this knowledge is really working in the dark. My wife is computer savy but what does it matter if I haven't left a trail of breadcrumbs - on computer or not - so she knows what she will need to deal with. You have a good solution setup for your wife. I'll do the same at least as a backup.
If I am stupid I will pay.
Topic Author
2comma
Posts: 1241
Joined: Thu Jul 15, 2010 11:37 pm

Re: Obit

Post by 2comma »

passerby wrote:Rick, it is nice to have a colorful appealing obit,
but
some people search obits and glean enough to make ID theft easy, your ID.
You of course don't know, but your spouse is perhaps left with a mess, while grieving.

So to prevent that, a minimal but legal obit works or
one that is a bit vague on detail yet accurate enough so those who knew you, can recognize that you have passed.

Its not a pleasant thought but it is a sign of the times.

best, David
Good point. I have heard stories in the past...
If I am stupid I will pay.
Topic Author
2comma
Posts: 1241
Joined: Thu Jul 15, 2010 11:37 pm

Re: How to make it easier for spouse upon death

Post by 2comma »

gd wrote:Same issue, probably more extreme than most. I do the lists and instructions, which can be as useful to me as my spouse. I'm also slowly simplifying our investments and affairs generally, and my intent is that in the later stages, when my capabilities decline, we'll shift a lot to annuities. I do not share the dislike by others here of variable annuities, for that reason- it gives her something safely in the bag if I disappear suddenly. Unless you have children you absolutely trust the financial skills of, planning to live off self-managed investments into doddering old age just makes no sense to me.
This is a great point and I see myself, or her, transitioning to a very simple portfolio and if need be annuities. I will probably add something to my up-my-death document about simplification and annuities but I may recommend SPIA's instead. Thank you for the idea gd.
If I am stupid I will pay.
Topic Author
2comma
Posts: 1241
Joined: Thu Jul 15, 2010 11:37 pm

Re: How to make it easier for spouse upon death

Post by 2comma »

Default User BR wrote:Login information should only be available for joint accounts. Individual ones should not be accessed after you die. The custodian might well consider that some sort of identify theft is going on and lock the accounts.
Brian
Thanks Brian, understood. There really shouldn't be any reason she would need to actually access any of my accounts, I just need to be sure she is aware of them and what needs to be done to transfer them. I have some work to do there as I'm not sure what actually needs to happen.
If I am stupid I will pay.
Topic Author
2comma
Posts: 1241
Joined: Thu Jul 15, 2010 11:37 pm

Re: How to make it easier for spouse upon death

Post by 2comma »

tadamsmar wrote:I think most basic the general process is for the executor and beneficiaries to contact the companies holding assets and follow their instructions.

These instructions will not include logging into personal accounts of the deceased.

I executed as couple of estates before the internet days, and I never had to falsely assume the identity of the deceased during the process.
I will make it clear what the necessary steps are for my executor and beneficiaries. Now I have to go figure what that will be. Who said retirement might get boring?
If I am stupid I will pay.
Topic Author
2comma
Posts: 1241
Joined: Thu Jul 15, 2010 11:37 pm

Re: How to make it easier for spouse upon death

Post by 2comma »

Taylor Larimore wrote:
How to make it easier for spouse upon death.
Keep investing simple.

A single Vanguard Target Retirement Fund in a tax-advantaged account could be the ultimate portfolio.

Best wishes
Taylor
Always simple advice, always precise. Thank you Taylor.
If I am stupid I will pay.
Topic Author
2comma
Posts: 1241
Joined: Thu Jul 15, 2010 11:37 pm

Re: How to make it easier for spouse upon death

Post by 2comma »

Bill M wrote:
cheese_breath wrote:I maintain a Word document which I update frequently identifying everything we have and where I keep it.. Such as wills, car titles, home papers, insurance policies, credit cards, bank and investment accounts, accounts paid by auto withdrawal from our checking account, computerized spreadsheets, etc. There's also a section explaining my investment philosophy and why I have the investments I have. Other than Email and eBay she's not that computer literate so I told both her son and son in law where I keep the disk copy so they can print it for her.
The modern way is, of course, paperless. But some things should really be on paper. This is one of them. Not only do I keep such a MSWord document, I keep an up-to-date printed copy where it will be found if needed.
I've made my living in the computer field, maybe because of this I understand completely.
If I am stupid I will pay.
Topic Author
2comma
Posts: 1241
Joined: Thu Jul 15, 2010 11:37 pm

Re: How to make it easier for spouse upon death

Post by 2comma »

cheese_breath wrote:
Bill M wrote:
cheese_breath wrote:I maintain a Word document which I update frequently identifying everything we have and where I keep it.. Such as wills, car titles, home papers, insurance policies, credit cards, bank and investment accounts, accounts paid by auto withdrawal from our checking account, computerized spreadsheets, etc. There's also a section explaining my investment philosophy and why I have the investments I have. Other than Email and eBay she's not that computer literate so I told both her son and son in law where I keep the disk copy so they can print it for her.
The modern way is, of course, paperless. But some things should really be on paper. This is one of them. Not only do I keep such a MSWord document, I keep an up-to-date printed copy where it will be found if needed.
My document also contains a listing of every website I or my wife use and their passwords. It is too large and updated too frequently to reprint every time it changes. However, in addition to the individuals already told how to print it. I do have hard copy instructions for printing it in my desk. BTW, there is also a duplicate copy of the Word file in case the original goes bad.
I have similar that I will be updating. We both live by the computer but I don' t want to die by it. I will keep a printed copy and let her know where it is.
If I am stupid I will pay.
Topic Author
2comma
Posts: 1241
Joined: Thu Jul 15, 2010 11:37 pm

Re: How to make it easier for spouse upon death

Post by 2comma »

delamer wrote:My father put together a loose-leaf binder with copies of investments, pension, and life and health insurance information. It had all the account numbers and contact information that my mother needed. I would favor hard copies if the surviving spouse isn’t computer literate. (My parents didn’t own a computer so that was a non-issue for them.)

Planning for the immediate issues following death is important, but the long-term planning is at least as critical.

For estate tax purposes, my father’s half of their holdings went into a trust that benefits my mother during her lifetime but which I am the ultimate beneficiary of (only child). The investments in the trust are managed by a local bank, as are a large portion of the rest of my mother’s holdings. But about 1/3 of her money is held in various CD’s at a credit union.

While I am not keen on paying the bank’s fees – being the boglehead type with my family's investments – I have come to see this setup as an advantage.

First, the fees are reasonable and my mother has access to people who actually come to her home and talk about her investments’ performance with her. The bank is doing a decent job of balancing her need for income and mine for growth in the trust.

Second, if the bank was not controlling the money then my mother would have to manage it herself. That would have been problematic when she was first widowed; now that she is in her 90’s, it could be disastrous. She does not have dementia, but she is certainly not sharp enough (nor does she have the experience) to make good decisions about investments. And while I agree with Taylor’s idea of a Vanguard Target Retirement Fund above, I don’t think my mother would be capable of “leaving well enough alone” even if I could have convinced her to invest in that way. If she reads something negative about a company that the bank has bought stock in for her account, she thinks the bank should sell the stock. She chased around town for awhile to get a slightly better rate on a CD even though it meant having to deal with a different bank. Despite my reassurances, she is constantly worried about outliving her money even though she lives very comfortably on just the income from the investments made by the bank (withdrawal rate of less than 3% at year).

Having the bank as a neutral third party has been worth the cost for me. Ironically, she doesn't remember being consulted about setting up the trust even though she was.
I think you father is a great role model, that is exactly my goal - i want to make it as smooth as possible on the living. I am trying to focus on both the immediate issues and the longer term issues as you said. I am in the process of finding a neutral third party and I think you have found a solution that works well. I will keep this in mind and re-read it several times as I re-think how to do this the best I can.
If I am stupid I will pay.
Topic Author
2comma
Posts: 1241
Joined: Thu Jul 15, 2010 11:37 pm

Re: How to make it easier for spouse upon death

Post by 2comma »

Levett wrote:Lots of excellent suggestions, but we have found that having an excellent family lawyer (as part of a large law firm 'cause individual lawyers die just like the rest of us :( ) is indispensable.

All family members have letters of instruction that include essential information, including the name of the law firm in whose vault all originals of every important document have been deposited (along with copies deposited in our personal safe deposit boxes).

For many years, we have done regular reviews of these documents to make sure they reflect current circumstances--both personal and in light of whatever changes in the law that have occurred.

Lev
My tendency is to do exactly this - thanks for adding your advice. I don't know how to choose a law firm. I don't know if I need an estate lawyer, an eldercare lawyer or a patent lawyer. My estate will not be that large, just enough to retire a little early and do ok, so as always, I don't know how much size really matters. If I can find a firm that will advise well on an estate this size I will probably go this direction. If a friend, relative, FA, lawyer, bank is the best fit I do not know yet. I will figure it out though, at least that has been my experience so far.
If I am stupid I will pay.
User avatar
tadamsmar
Posts: 9977
Joined: Mon May 07, 2007 12:33 pm

Re: How to make it easier for spouse upon death

Post by tadamsmar »

For a while, my spouse and I used simple wills that I created with some software (Willmaker, I think).

I went to a lawyer to get it updated and he had us create POAs, health care POAs, and advance directives. I keep the originals in my lockbox.

I have a list of all financial firms and insurance firms we use in my lockbox, since the executor needs to contact them for instructions. My primary and contingent executors and POAs are listed for access to the lockbox. My wife is my executor.

There are some instructions in the lockbox related to how to better ensure that transfers on death optimize the RMDs since this can be a bit tricky. And the law firm we used is listed.
rocket
Posts: 703
Joined: Sat Aug 11, 2007 7:24 am
Location: Hard Scrabble, MS

Re: How to make it easier for spouse upon death

Post by rocket »

In our file cabinet, I put all estate planning documents in RED folders. My wife knows this.
Default User BR
Posts: 7502
Joined: Mon Dec 17, 2007 6:32 pm

Re: How to make it easier for spouse upon death

Post by Default User BR »

rickmerrill wrote:I will make it clear what the necessary steps are for my executor and beneficiaries. Now I have to go figure what that will be. Who said retirement might get boring?
Generally speaking, you want the accounts designated with pay-on-death, transfer-on-death, or beneficiaries. This is a much quicker and easier process to go through when needed than probate, and often cheaper. It's simple to set up for your accounts.


Brian
User avatar
Rick Ferri
Posts: 9711
Joined: Mon Feb 26, 2007 10:40 am
Location: Georgetown, TX. Twitter: @Rick_Ferri
Contact:

Re: How to make it easier for spouse upon death

Post by Rick Ferri »

Here is some truth from a very experienced adviser who is often on the other end of:

My Spouse Will Call You When I’m Dead

Rick Ferri
The Education of an Index Investor: born in darkness, finds indexing enlightenment, overcomplicates everything, embraces simplicity.
Post Reply