As mentioned in the previous blog post about “Preparing for Death”, I’m not trying to be morose, but I want to give helpful information to those of us who need to be thinking ahead.
Death is not an easy topic to discuss with our loved ones. As a PwP the subject of facing death is one that my family and friends turn away from discussing with me. My husband is the only person who takes my conversations seriously and engages with me about my concerns and planning for the future.
The second topic I want to bring to you today is about “Full Disclosure”. We glide along through our lives and create instances and situations that are private. It’s not that we aren’t willing to be frank with our family and friends, but in the following instances we don’t have to reveal everything everyday.
Logins and Passwords – As we become a society that is more dependent on the Internet we create logins and passwords for email, online accounts, blogs and social networking sites. I would encourage you to keep a log of your logins and passwords for every one of your online accounts. This is easy to do in a spreadsheet format that can be printed and then use correction fluid to revise when you do change your password.
While this may seem laborious and trivial to some of you, believe me, I can tell you that sending emails to someone who died when I did not KNOW left me frustrated and sad. Of course, you may choose to secure your passwords with a sites such as these : Legacy Locker, Asset Lock and Deathswitch – but you’ll have to pay them to manage the password list for you and then notify your next of kin when you don’t respond to their “update messages” after a period of time.
In a Time magazine article there’s a suggestion that a document should be attached to your will to give information to your Executor on how you want your online accounts handled. If you choose to ignore giving out the passwords and then expect your family or spouse to attempt to close your accounts, they’ll have a lot of hassles on their hands getting Yahoo, Gmail and MSN to even communicate with them about this.
Safety Deposit Boxes and Bank Accounts – In Texas, your safety deposit box and your bank accounts are sealed upon your death unless you have a co-signatory who also has a key. DO NOT put your will in your safety deposit box because no one will be able to get into it to retrieve the will without a court order! Just make sure there’s someone who has access to your accounts and box as a co-signatory if they will need access to funds, documents or valuables upon your death.
Insurance Policies – These need to be in a list somewhere for your Executor or family to know about after your death. If you don’t have a copy of the actual policy, do your loved ones a favor and get a copy of it now! The policy lists the contact information and procedures your family needs to follow to recover the policy pay-out upon your death. Hopefully, you’ve covered the disbursement particulars of the policy payout to your insurance company when you listed your beneficiaries. If you’ve divorced or remarried, you’ll want to revise those beneficiaries with the company BEFORE your death. Once you are gone, the insurance company will only payout to the beneficiaries listed in your policy.
Other Areas that May Need Transparency – I would suggest that you really think about transparency in dealing with your heirs. A dear friend found out about her father’s 3 other grown children when she attended his funeral. The father never mentioned either family to the other and what ensued was an emotional, angry confrontation. Another person dear to me was never told that his father married the caregiver and signed everything over to her. The son made the funeral arrangements thinking he was still the beneficiary of the life insurance policy. When he arrived at the funeral home, the caregiver-wife informed him of the situation, refused to pay for the funeral with the insurance proceeds and left him with a $15,000 funeral bill.
What I’m saying is simply this: Once you’re dead and gone, you have no way of knowing your heirs will do the right thing. Either make it clear in writing, or disclose the circumstances to EVERYONE before your death. None of the folks I mentioned above can now find one kind word to utter about their fathers – and that’s a terrible shame.