No one likes to talk about death and dying. I get it, it’s a sucky topic. But last year when my dad died unexpectedly, there were so many things I wish I knew and I could have saved myself a lot of time and aggravation if he had been more prepared. Granted he did leave a Will and we had all of the appropriate estate documents that everyone should have. I’m a lawyer after all. I strong armed the man to do a Will and a Durable Power of Attorney and a Health Care Proxy and a Supplemental Needs Trust for one of my disabled brothers who would lose benefits if he received a large inheritance. But when he died, there were many things that could have made it so much easier.
The funeral was the first order of business. I turn to my mom and ask about the money situation. She had no idea. I didn’t have his login information at his bank so I couldn’t take a chance that he didn’t have enough money in his account to pay for the funeral. You have to pay up front so I had to scramble around which no one needs in that situation. My mom was in shock and gave me incorrect information and we ended up bouncing the check to the funeral home. Not cool. I did get it straightened out but you see my point that it would have been nice to just log onto his bank account and see which account had the appropriate amount of money in it!
It’s great to have a Will but there are many things that do not pass through Probate. For instance, if your parents own a house as tenants by the entirety, the interest goes directly to the surviving spouse. It’s the same with IRA’s and life insurance. So it’s really helpful to have a place where all of that information and especially log in information can be found easily. I really wish that I had my dad’s email address and password so I could access the automatic payments and bill pay he had set up. Information about his homeowner’s policy and auto insurance would have been great to have at my fingertips so I could contact them and cancel things. His amazon password and log in would have been great too because there were recurring purchases that I couldn’t stop.
I needed to switch his social security benefits to my mom and I needed his birth certificate and their marriage certificate to do so which were nowhere to be found. I spent hours going through all of his documents and ended up having to order them.
I do believe it’s important to have your estate documents at the ready but also make it a point to have the other things documented as well. At the end of the day, the only things that had to pass through probate were my dad’s three antique Volkswagen rabbits worth about $1000.00.
For those of you with aging parents, I encourage you to get a notebook together and ask them the questions ahead of time. Because after a loss when you’re reeling, it’s a tough time to play detective.