Part II:  What to Do About It!

In Part I of this 3 part series, I described the problems that people commonly experience after the “Family CEO” dies.  Now I want to share some ideas to help prepare for that event.

After watching my dad struggle to figure out how to manage the family business after my mom passed away last fall, it is important to me to figure out how to help my clients learn from my family’s experience, and encourage them to put together a plan of their own for handling all of the family management issues, which I will call the “family contingency plan.”  If you are single, you have the added challenge of finding someone you trust to share the important management information with. The point is to make it easier for those you leave behind when you die to handle your personal affairs.  Here are a few thoughts I offer to help everyone get started:

  • Keep a list of all of the usernames and passwords you use to access financial information online.  You can do it the old fashioned way with a pen and pad of paper, which is better than not on doing it at all.  However, a better option would be to use an application, such as 1Password, to safely store all of that information.·      If you keep your information on your computer, be sure you write down and store in a safe place the password necessary to log on to your computer, and provide instructions about key applications you use to manage family finances and business matters.  If those who come after you can’t get past the login screen on your computer, just imagine how frustrated they will be.
  • If you’re married, make sure your spouse’s name is on all of your utility accounts so that that the survivor is authorized to obtain information about the accounts and make any necessary adjustments to services.
  • Develop a systematized method for filing and storing records, including account statements, insurance policies, retirement plan information, etc.  If you store that on your computer, include an explanation of what’s where on your computer in the written directions you provide.  If you do it the old fashioned way by using paper and a file cabinet, that’s fine too.  Just be consistent about doing it.
  • Prepare a list of all of the bills you pay every month and indicate how you pay them – whether online, by check, bill pay, etc. – with directions for paying each bill.

Again – I could go on and on and . . . .  Well – you get the picture.  As you embark on this project and create your own family contingency plan, try to think of everything someone who isn’t you would need to know to enable them do what needs to be done each month to keep things moving.  Write down those instructions.  Then – and this is the key – SHARE IT!   Share it with your spouse if you’re married, or with someone else who you have identified as the person who will carry out your wishes and handle your affairs following your death (I’ll just call these people your “helper”).  And after you prepare your family contingency plan and share it the first time, set times for reviewing and updating it at least yearly or, preferably, as often as anything about your plan changes – such as bill payment methods, account numbers, passwords, etc.  An out-of-date plan can be as frustrating as no plan.

In Part III, I’ll discuss another important key for improving the chances that your family contingency plan will actually work when the time comes.