How to Plan for the End

In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” - Benjamin Franklin

   While not particularly motivating, Benjamin Franklin is indeed correct. And to that end, we should be prepared for that unavoidable permanence. But how?

How do you plan for the end of life?

  • A Will
  • A list of bank accounts, URLs, usernames, passwords.
  • Instructions for financial management of accounts

A Will

   A will is a legal document outlining what you want to happen with your estate upon your passing. Your will is used to outline your wishes, and leave assets to various individuals and groups (think spouse and children, and charities). Why you need a Will now further outlines the importance, and gives you steps to take to produce a will. 

  • Take action today: protect your family from estate taxes, and do your part to make a difficult time easier for your loved ones.

Accounts, Subscriptions, and Services

   Subscriptions are everywhere in today’s society. As we become further plugged in, and even reliant on technology, these subscriptions provide access to a wide range of services. Even services that once thrived on paper correspondence, like banks and government tax agencies, are creating online profiles and portals to conduct business. With all these online accounts in our name, navigating the list of services we’re using can become quite a chore. Indeed, I have spreadsheets with 30+ different accounts for business and personal use. With such a complex ecosystem of electronic connections, providing our loved ones a list of all accounts and login details is important.

   Providing a single, unified list of all accounts and details will help you stay organized, and make things much easier in the event that control needs to be passed on to a loved one. To help manage this, there are a few options.

   Spreadsheets are a convenient way to store account details. For my work-related logins, I store all my details on a single, password-protected file. This allows others with the password to access the files, and obtain access through my usernames and passwords to any service that I use for work. Certainly the ability to easily share the spreadsheet, especially if using a cloud based service like Google Docs, provides a measure of convenience that is hard to duplicate. One disadvantage is, while easy to use, spreadsheets do not provide high-level cyber security, and may not be best for storing sensitive information.

   On the other end of the spectrum for cyber security are password management services. Companies such as LastPass or BitWarden (I have no affiliation with either company) provide secure logins to store all passwords. These services also help you create and store high-strength passwords, to greatly reduce the chances of your accounts being compromised. Both these solutions offer both paid and free services for individuals, and provide high-strength, convenient password and account management services.

   No matter the route you take to organize your account logins, having a way to pass on the detailed list of login URL’s and account details will make life much easier for your loved ones.

Instructions for Financial Management 

   Another area of concern, especially among couples, is how to manage finances. While I would advocate that in matters of money, both parties share the knowledge and decisions, I understand that in some relationships this simply isn’t the case. If you are the one who primarily handles financial aspects, you need a way to pass on that knowledge and a “what to do next” plan to your partner and/or children. This is information that goes beyond simply what assets and liabilities exist, as those are covered in your will. Instructions for financial management should explain, at least at a high level, your investing strategies and asset allocation. Also included should be a short list of trusted financial advisers, or knowledgeable friends that would be willing to help understand the finances.

What to include:
  • Where investment accounts are held
  • Basic investing strategy, and financial goals
  • Trusted financial adviser / friends
  • List of resources to help educate your remaining loved ones
    • Books, Blogs, Courses, etc.

   Death is simply a part of life. Accepting this fact might not make the loss of a loved one, or your own mortality easier to bear, but it will certainly help you plan for the inevitable. Those plans should include a will, to outline your wishes for the distribution of your estate. This step will help you minimize estate taxes, and dispel potential conflicts between remaining family and loved ones. 

   Another helpful step is to compile a list of accounts for services that you use. Included in this list should be: service, company, a login URL (if applicable) account numbers, user names, and passwords. This will help keep things organized, and prevent service disruptions that further increase the difficulty of an already trying time. Finally, providing financial management best practices and strategies, along with education resources and trusted advisers will help ease the burden of financial management from your surviving loved ones. 

   The right plans implemented early will let you and your family / loved ones sleep peacefully at night, knowing that you have done all you can to set them up for success.

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