Preparing for life's What-If's pt3

 Organize Your Contacts 

Making sense of your contacts is hard enough on your own. Chances are you have more than a few people in your phone who you don’t know.

Why are there three Karen H’s? Which one is the right one? Wait, it doesn’t even matter – I don’t know any Karen H!

If you find your own contact list confusing, imagine someone else trying to make sense of it after you pass – in addition to their grieving, they’ll have an organizational nightmare on their hands.

Your loved ones will inevitably need to be able to contact a few important people when you’re gone, and there are several steps you take today to make that process easier.

Note: These steps are based on the guidebook I’ve chosen to help get my life in order this year: 

In Case You Get Hit by a Bus: How to Organize Your Life Now for When You’re Not Around Later,” by Abby Schneiderman and Adam Seifer (founders of Everplans*) with Gene Newman.

Identify Your Top 5 Contacts

Whether your list of VIP contacts is 500 or 15, the first step is to identify the top five. And not just any five.

While your first instinct might be to list those you talk to most often, that’s actually not a great strategy here – you don’t need your close friends’ and family members’ phone numbers. Rather, you need to identify the phone numbers those people would need when you’re no longer here. Think of them as your emergency contacts for your emergency contacts.

To help you get started, base each contact off of one of these five categories:

  1. Medical

Who is your primary physician, or is there a specialist you’ve been seeing regularly for a medical condition? If so, now’s the time to list their information. 

  1. Home

Who’s the handyperson you call on when something needs fixed? Is there a person from your church you always stops by to mow your lawn? 

  1. Financial

Do you have a financial advisor you’ve been working with? A banker? 

  1. Legal

What about an attorney or other legal representative? 

  1. Work

Who can you trust from your current (or previous) job to help answer any questions your loved ones may have?

When creating your list, make sure you add the contacts’ first and last names, title or organization, phone number and email address, and any relevant notes your loved ones might need. When in doubt, write it down. 

Other Contacts to Consider Including

We’ve narrowed down your top five contacts because we want to make this as simple as possible for your family members – it won’t be helpful to them if you have a bajillion people listed.

That said, you might need to flesh out your list just a little more. Consider adding these contacts:

  • Vehicle maintenance professionals– This could include your car, motorcycle, boat, etc.
  • Friends – Your bestie that moved across the country will probably still want to make it to your funeral.
  • Coworkers – How can your loved ones access your last paycheck? Who can help clean out your desk?
  • Neighbors – Maybe there’s a neighbor down that street that you regularly help with grocery shopping – she’ll probably want a heads up if something happens to you.
  • Religious Organizations – Are you the treasurer on the board of your religious organization? Do you run weekly Bible school sessions? Who at your church can help fill in the gaps when you’re gone?
  • Other Organizations – Similar to religious organizations, you should include important contact information for any other projects, charities, or businesses you’re involved with.

Make it Easy for Your Family

This entire process is truly a final gift you can leave for your loved ones – it’s a way to make sure they’re not burdened with a massive to-do list and no idea where to start if you were to become incapacitated.

Keep that in mind as you continue organizing your contacts and other aspects of your life. It may seem tedious now, but it could be incredibly helpful to your family down the road.

Grow with Gasber

Need help in your journey to organize your life and finances? Gasber can help – click here to schedule your complimentary “Get Acquainted” meeting today.

 

Preparing for Life's What-If's pt2

 How to Get Your Home in Order 

A lot goes into keeping your household running smoothly. From cleaning to upkeep and maintenance or repairs, these to-dos don’t disappear – even if you do.  

And renters don’t have it any easier. Even if you don’t own your home, there are likely still big pieces to your home life that will require some attention in your absence.

So, as part of my quest to organize my home and life this year, I’m turning to the next chapter in my guidebook:

In Case You Get Hit by a Bus: How to Organize Your Life Now for When You’re Not Around Later,” by Abby Schneiderman and Adam Seifer (founders of Everplans*) with Gene Newman. 

In the first part of this series, we talked about getting your finances in order so your surviving loved ones aren’t left trying to track everything down.  

This next step is all about how to organize your home (and everything in and around it), so that all your systems continue to function smoothly in the event of an emergency.  

How to Organize Your Pad for When You’re Gone

It’s important to take a look around every part of your home (that creepy area in the basement you’ve been avoiding for years? Yep, that too!). It’s time to grab your pen and paper and carve out an afternoon to get everything in order.

Utilities

Some of the major aspects of your home might be hiding in plain sight, like your electricity, phones and internet.

Take a minute to check these things out – is there a light that always goes out? Where’s the fuse box located, and what do you do to fix it?  

Is your ancient home phone collecting dust in the corner, or is it bundled up with your internet package in a deal that’s too good to pass up? Do you own your own wifi equipment, or are you renting from the internet provider?  

Don’t forget your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors – when were they last replaced, anyway? And how does that HVAC system work?  

Write down all the answers to these questions and any relevant details – while this stuff may seem obvious to you, your loved ones will feel a little less lost sorting it out with your helpful notes.

The Big Stuff

Next up: the big stuff – literally.

Is a piece of furniture in your living room especially valuable? And where did you get that amazing wallpaper in the guest bathroom? What about that hand-painted artwork hanging in your bedroom?  

This information could be invaluable to your loved ones in the case that they want to replace or fix up your digs. Make sure to include:  

  • Furniture
  • Paint colors and wallpaper brands
  • Decor
  • Fireplace (including care instructions and how to use)
  • Laundry machines
  • Kitchen appliances

It’s a good idea to walk through each area of your home and list these big-ticket items based on their location.

The Little Stuff

Now it’s time to get into the nitty gritty details. 

This includes your security system. Whether it’s a high-tech camera run by a top-notch security company, or a neighbor with your spare key and a telescope pointed out their front window, you’ll need to write down a few key pieces of information. 

Likewise, any home automation systems (like Amazon Echos or a digital thermostat) should be included in your list. Write down the passwords, companies, and any other troubleshooting information that could be relevant in the future. 

Are there any small items that are particularly important or sentimental to you? Make sure your family will be able to find and properly care for them.

Outside Your Home

Just because it’s outside of your home doesn’t mean it’s not important. If you have any care instructions for your yard, make sure to include those in your list. You’ll also need to list any storage facilities you use, including their location, monthly price, what’s stored in them and a contact at the company. 

If you have any vehicles (including cars, boats, RVs or motorcycles), list out the makes, models, license plate numbers and any other relevant care information that your loved ones would need to know.

 

Preparing for Life’s What-Ifs Pt 1

 How to Organize Your Bill Paying and Financial Accounts 

I do not make New Year’s resolutions – if I get a good idea in September, I’ll implement it right then and there. No need to wait until the calendar says I can.

That said, there’s been something weighing on my mind for a while now that’s prompted me to begin a regular, non-New Year’s resolution: My entire family’s financial and estate financial planning is living in my head – and nowhere else.

While my husband takes care of home maintenance and other household tasks, the financial stuff has always been my area of expertise, and that’s always worked well for us. So what’s the issue?

If either of us were to be injured or otherwise incapacitated, the entire system would fall apart!

I may know how to balance a checkbook and file our taxes, but when it comes to operating the generator or starting a fire in our wood-burning stove, I’m pretty much helpless. Likewise, my husband would have a difficult time paying the household bills on time or locating contacts for our insurance policies.

So, this is the year I’m going to organize our lives, and I wanted to bring you along for the journey. While I handle the finances in my marriage, many women leave money matters up to their husbands – and are left struggling to make sense of it all after their husband passes away.

This is a common problem. Women on average have a life expectancy that is nearly five years longer than that of men. If the details of your financial situation are living in your husband’s head, then now is a good time to get them down on paper – no matter how old you are.

And that goes for single women, too. Your loved ones need to know where this information is if they have to help you.

I knew I’d need a little help getting started, so I’m turning to a book with a somewhat morbid title: “In Case You Get Hit by a Bus: How to Organize Your Life Now for When You’re Not Around Later,” by Abby Schneiderman and Adam Seifer (founders of Everplans*) with Gene Newman. I’ve found this book to be invaluable as I consider the steps I need to take to make sure I don’t leave behind a mess when I’m gone.

Get Started with Bill Paying and Financial Accounts

I’ll be starting with what I consider the most important item – bill paying and financial accounts and how to access them. After all, one of the most stressful parts of losing a spouse is making sure bills get paid on time and accounts don’t get lost. it doesn’t do any good to write important information down if others don’t know how to find it or what to do with it in your absence.

So many of my clients are facing the same situation my family is in: one spouse takes care of the bills while the other handles other parts of their lives. I have several clients I meet with without any involvement from their partner at all. In the case of a death or divorce, the surviving spouse is left without a clue, unable to access their money for weeks or even months.

Create a List of All Your Assets

The first step to organizing your assets is to take stock of what you’ve got and where it is. Most people have liquid assets, or funds that are easily accessible. This might include your checking and savings accounts at your local banks or any cash you keep on hand.

Then you have your reserve assets, the ones that would take some time and effort to retrieve (e.g., retirement accounts, real estate, life insurance policies). They’re still a part of your net worth, but you’re probably not going to be spending that money anytime soon.

Create a list of everything you own – liquid, reserve and everything in between. You can do this digitally, like in an Excel spreadsheet. If you’re more comfortable with a pen and paper, grab a legal pad.

You don’t need to include all the sensitive details like account numbers and passwords – yet. Just begin by listing the amount and where it’s kept. Remember, the goal is to make sure your family knows where to look when you’re not there to point them in the right direction.

Information to consider including in your list:

  • The money amount
  • Where the money is located
  • A personal contact (that works at the relevant institution, like your regular banker)
  • Where you’ve stored any relevant paperwork
    • This could be online, in a safe, or with another person

Don’t Forget the Paperwork

Speaking of important paperwork, you probably also have some assets that aren’t in dollar form, but also have some value. This could include the deed to your home or titles to any vehicles you own.

When creating your list of assets, make sure to include these items:

  • The deed to your home
  • The title to your vehicle(s)
  • Court orders
  • Contracts
  • Certificates of authenticity
  • Certificates of ownership for any valuable family heirlooms or other big-ticket items

It’s okay if you don’t know the exact value of these items, because they tend to fluctuate over time rather than maintaining a set price. The important thing is to list where your loved ones can find all the important documentation attached to each of the items.

Consider the Benefits

You may also qualify for revenue streams that your loved ones could benefit from in the event of your passing, like a pension, Social Security, disability insurance, unemployment benefits, longevity insurance or child support.

If you’re receiving or plan on collecting money from one or more of these benefits programs, you’ll want to provide some relevant details.

Be sure to include:

  • Details or relevant paperwork
  • How and where you get paid
  • A contact familiar with your account
  • Any online details they may need

If you are a veteran or active military member, you may also be due a military burial upon your passing. To help your loved ones cover burial costs and collect any other survivor benefits, make sure you include discharge papers or any other relevant military paperwork in your assets list.

Join Together with Joint Bank Accounts

After you’ve got your list of assets put together, the next step is to ensure you and your spouse are both listed on your bank accounts.

When only one of you is listed as an account holder, you risk having the account frozen upon your death, which could leave your spouse unable to access any of that money and create unnecessary complications with bill-paying after you’re gone.

Safety First

You may have heard that safe deposit boxes are a secure spot for all your important stuff. If your house burns down, you’ve still got your safe deposit box, right?

Maybe.

The reality is that safe deposit boxes aren’t protected by any federal laws – if your items are stolen or misplaced by the bank, you have no recourse for compensation.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t use a safe deposit box – they can be a great spot to keep your heirlooms, insurance policies or even things you want your family to inherit after you’re gone. However, they may not be the right place to store things you think you’ll need access to quickly in case of an emergency, like an Advanced Directive or Power of Attorney.

Most importantly, you’ll want to grant a close loved one or other trusted confidant access to your safe deposit box. Otherwise, they’ll need a court order to gain access after your passing, which can be a lengthy and cost-heavy process. Your bank should be able to assist you in naming a designated trustee or authorized user.

Grow with Gasber

Need some guidance in your financial journey? Gasber Financial Advisors, Inc. is here to help. With nearly three decades of experience in financial planning, our firm has the knowledge and expertise to set your family up for long-term success.

 

*Everplans is an easy-to-access, secure digital archive where you can store everything described above throughout your life. At Gasber Financial we believe so strongly in organizing that we provide all clients with access to their own Everplan account. Find out more at www.everplans.com.

Gasber Financial is here to help you make confident decisions.

 Please call or "connect" with us at the top of the page for complimentary consultation or with any questions you may have.

 

Holiday Spending?

 Three ways to make this year’s holiday even warmer 

The holidays are supposed to be about family, friends, spending time together, being of good cheer and probably a bit of religion thrown in as well. We’re supposed to be merry and maybe smile a little bigger and spread our love. I’m not quite sure when it became about spending the most on gifts or decorating our homes to within an inch of our lives (think I’m kidding? Just google “extreme Christmas decorations”).  

I admit that this is an unusual year, so we likely not only need more holiday cheer, but may need some new ways to find it, since we may not be able to have the traditional parties and gatherings. Here are a few ideas.  

Decorations

I confess that I haven’t begun to decorate yet, but I feel uplifted seeing lights on my neighbors’ trees and displays in their yards. And, if that gives you pleasure, then by all means go for it. Just make sure you aren’t going into debt or sacrificing your other goals to buy the trimmings or lights. You don’t want those good feelings to go away when that January power bill arrives.  

Gifts

Consider setting a budget for what you want to spend on gifts. You could even set a budget that includes everything you want to spend on gifts, decorations and food during the holidays and begin saving for it in January, depositing 1/12 of the total into the holiday account each month. Then when December rolls around, you’ll be golden.  

And even though it’s too late to do that for this year, it’s not too late to set budgets overall or for each member of your family. Parents often want to give their kids the world—and likely, especially in a year like this where you feel they’ve lost far more than they’ve gained. However, it’s still a good idea to put a limit on things or at least go in with a budget in mind to help you keep things from getting too out of control.  

Giving

Another idea that can help warm your heart this year is to give a little more. There are more people in need this year than ever before. And even though you won’t see Santa on every corner, there are many ways to give. Did you know that in 2012, the National Day of Giving, or Giving Tuesday, was created as an antidote to the commercialism from Black Friday and Cyber Monday? It’s true. But we shouldn’t need just one day to give. We should be making a plan to give to the causes that matter most to you throughout the year.  

Try to determine which organizations you want to help and how much you feel comfortable giving and then stick to it. Don’t be swayed by those sad puppy-dog eyes in the ASPCA commercials and go over-budget (guilty as charged!). If you’re not sure where to give, check out www.Charitynavigator.org—an independent non-profit organization that helps you evaluate the choices and determine the best places for you to give.  

Gasber Financial is here to help you make confident decisions.

We’d be happy to help you budget for the holidays, for giving throughout the year, and more.

Please call or "connect" with us at the top of the page for more information or with any questions you may have.

Skeletons in the Closet?

How to Remove the Embarrassing Stuff Before it’s Too Late 

Some things you just want to stay private forever, like your internet history or those weird letters from your ex-lover. No one wants their peaceful haunting interrupted by the mortifying moment your child decides to read your diary.

If you’ve been following my blog, you know that this is the year I’m organizing my life, with a little help from my guidebook: 

In Case You Get Hit by a Bus: How to Organize Your Life Now for When You’re Not Around Later,” by Abby Schneiderman and Adam Seifer (founders of Everplans*) with Gene Newman.

Today, we’re exploring some of the final nuggets of wisdom this book has to offer: cleaning out those embarrassing (or even damaging) skeletons in your closet. 

6 Steps to Clean the Skeletons from Your Closet Before You Die

You don’t want your grandkids to stumble across your embarrassing skeletons, or find out any secret health issues you’d rather take to the grave. 

These six steps, inspired from our guidebook, will help ensure you’ve removed anything you’d like to stay hidden – let’s get started. 

  1. Throw Things Away

The first step is to remove anything from your home that you no longer need and don’t want to leave to anyone else to clear out. Get rid of as much as possible while you’re still here to do it. 

Now is a great time to dive into your storage and start sorting. Check out your closets, garage, basement, attic or wherever else you’ve been keeping stuff over the years. If you find anything you’d rather part with now than leave for your loved ones to find, toss it out. 

  1. Appoint a Cleaner

Another great idea is to leave a provision in your will stating exactly who you would like to take care of your personal belongings after you’re gone. This could be a close friend or even a professional cleaning service. This way, you can limit the embarrassment to a single person rather than leave it up to fate. 

You’ll need to leave detailed instructions for your appointed cleaner, which you can base off this list. Remember to add a thank-you as well! 

  1. Go Through the Embarrassing and Illegal Stuff

After you’ve passed, your appointed cleaner will need to get rid of anything embarrassing. Make a list of stuff that you wouldn’t leave in plain sight at Thanksgiving dinner, as well as where your person can find each item. 

If you have any drugs, weapons, dangerous items or illegal activities you want to stay secret, make note of those now as well. 

  1. Don’t Forget Your Digital History

One often-overlooked area to wipe clean is your digital history. This could mean tablets, computers, laptops, phones and digital cameras. Your cleaner should have access to all your login information so they can clear your search history as well as delete any cookies. You may also want them to delete your hard drive to ensure any private files saved to your device are cleared. 

Don’t forget about any digital receipts or footprints that may be lurking in your email account as well.

Give clear guidance here on what your cleaner should and shouldn’t delete: you want that adult material gone, but maybe not last year’s Christmas photos.

  1. If All Else Fails, Start Smashing

If for some reason your cleaner runs into trouble or you have doubts about their ability to find and delete the proper items, leave a back-up provision. If no one is going to use your computer anymore, you can always just smash the machine and throw it away. 

It may not be the most eco-friendly, but it is effective.

  1. Cancel Memberships

Your cleaner can also use this opportunity to cancel any memberships or subscriptions you wouldn’t like popping up on your credit card statement. 

Likewise, if you have any organizations that reach out to you via mail or phone, you can also request that your cleaner call and cancel those. 

A Bonus Resource

If you want to be extra-secure in cleaning out your skeletons, I’ve got another book that can help you dive deeper into after-death organization. 

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter, written by Margareta Magnusson, details the Swedish practice of clearing out your life and home before and after death. 

Get Your Life Together with Gasber

 

Ready to start clearing out the skeletons in your closet?

Gasber Financial is here to help you make confident decisions.

 Please call or "connect" with us at the top of the page for more information or with any questions you may have.