Heir Conditioning

If you were to pass away today, would your heirs have easy access to all your financial, legal and practical information? For most of you, the answer is “No.” And for some of you, it’s even “Heck No!”

NO Gathering all this information can be quite a daunting task. Where do you start?

HECK NO Many of you don’t want your kids knowing the details of your finances. Yes, they have a general notion of your wealth, but you keep the details close to the vest.

A death in the family is, of course, a deeply emotional event. But I can tell you, having observed this so often over the past 40 years, that the emotional blow for the heirs is compounded by the frustration of having to sort out the deceased’s financial, legal and practical matters without a roadmap.

Think about it. If you don’t tell them, how else will your heirs know about…

  • Your life insurance?
  • Your various bank and investment accounts?
  • Your safe deposit box?
  • Who becomes the trustee of the trust Aunt Tillie set up for you?
  • Who’s handling your rental property?
  • How to turn off your Facebook account?
  • All your automatically paid bills that keep getting paid long after you’re gone?

The solution is simple. I offer this service to my clients free of charge, but you can do this on your own. Here are the 4 steps:

1. Make a list.  It doesn’t have to be elaborate or fancy. Make sure it includes:

■ Vitals: Your Social Security Number, date of birth (which they should know…)
■ Accounts & Policies: Account number, online password, address, contact person, approximate value
■ Professionals: Financial advisor, CPA, attorney, realtor, insurance agent
■ Contacts: Doctor(s), religious leader, business partner(s), charitable/civic boards.

2. Gather documents.

■ Certificates: Birth, marriage, divorce
■ Will or trust, power of attorney, pre- or post-nuptials, partnerships, buy-sell agreements
■ Property deed/titles, automobile pink slips, insurance policies
■ Tax return.

3. Store them. This list and set of documents need to be put in a very secure location but with easy access—you’ll need to update the information from time to time.

4. Leave written instructions. Write down where your information is stored (and how to retrieve it) and give this to a trusted advisor or friend. Then let your heirs know that they need to call this advisor or friend if anything happens to you.

Make sure your heirs are fully conditioned. Please don’t put this off.

Robert A. “Rocky” Mills is president of Westlake Investment Advisors in Westlake Village. 805-277-7300 | WestlakeIA.com

He is a registered representative with and securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. 

Investment advice offered through Westlake Investment Advisors, a registered investment advisor and separate entity from LPL Financial.