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Money April 2012

Dollar Sense

When I Can't Speak for Myself

By Teresa Ambord

But there is always the chance that you won't wake up tomorrow or that an accident or sudden illness will make you unable to speak for yourself. If that should happen, could someone step in for you?

None of us is promised tomorrow regardless of our age. It's easy to assume there is plenty of time to let your loved ones know details, like where you keep your cash stash, what credit accounts you have, and how you feel about those close to you. But there is always the chance that you won't wake up tomorrow or that an accident or sudden illness will make you unable to speak for yourself. If that should happen, could someone step in for you?

While there is time, it's a good idea to write a letter providing trusted family members with information they will need if you became incapacitated or if you suddenly passed away. Such a letter will not be legally binding and shouldn't be full of legalese. It is informational and will help your loved ones cross every "t." But keep it casual, in the same tone you'd write any letter to a loved one.

Once you've written this letter, keep it in a private but easily accessible place, and update it regularly as details change. Don't overlook an important point, that is, let key people -- your spouse, children, or other heirs -- know where it is, and provide your attorney and accountant each with a copy.

What kinds of information should be in the letter? Anything that is necessary to carry on or wrap up your affairs, and anything you wish loved ones to know.

Here's a sample letter.

Date ______

Dear ______

This letter is not to be confused with my will. If I should die or be unable to speak for myself, this information will make it easier for you to handle my legal and financial matters. A copy has been sent to my attorney and my accountant, whose contact information is below.

_____________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________

Here is a list of people to contact in the event that I can no longer speak for myself.

_____________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________

My legal documents, including my will, deed to my house, insurance policies, birth certificate, and other items are can be found _____.

Here is a list of information you will need to know:

Executors for my will: I have appointed the following people

_____________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________

They will handle most of the legal and financial matters, but they may need some assistance from you, which I hope you will find in this letter.

Banks and bank account numbers:

  • PINs
  • Online passwords

Safe deposit box:

Credit accounts and numbers:

Outstanding loans and other debts:

Insurance policies

Life:

Casualty:

Health:

My investments (brokerage firm, accounts, contact information)

My pension (amounts, plan administrator, contact information)

Cars registered in my name (single or joint ownership, location of registration papers)

Location of my tax returns

My memberships (volunteer organizations, boards, professional organizations)

People to contact to inform of my condition or my passing:

My funeral wishes:

How to distribute personal items not in my will:

Miscellaneous information you may need:

This is also a good place to put down your thoughts, letting important people in your life how you feel about them. Even young people can pass away unexpectedly, and most often, there is no opportunity for good-byes. The comfort that a few thoughtful words expressed on paper can bring is priceless to those you leave behind. The time is now!

 

Teresa Ambord is a former accountant and Enrolled Agent with the IRS. Now she writes full time from her home, mostly for business, and about family when the inspiration strikes.

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