One of our clients recently asked that we review their “Green Binder”. It was a simple 3-ring binder with copies of most of their important planning documents and instructions for how to find everything else and what to do after his death. It included a summary of their financial accounts, an inventory of their valuable items, and important contacts so that his wife and children would have a “go-to” resource when he is gone.
Many parents do not discuss their finances with their families and we thought this was a great way for people to provide clarity to their spouses and/or kids about their financial matters. Losing a loved one is never easy. Having to untangle the financial matters of the deceased without any guidance can add a great deal of complication to an already difficult situation.
We thought we’d pass along some structure for those of you who might be interested in constructing a binder for your families. The sections you might include in a life binder were as follows:
- Important Documents: Copies of wills, medical/financial power of attorney, deeds, stock certificates, military discharge papers, diplomas, passports, auto and real estate titles, and marriage and birth certificates. Be sure to also indicate where the original documents are stored.
- Summary of Accounts: A list of financial accounts that include the institution names, account title and type, account numbers, and approximate values for bank accounts, investment accounts, mortgages and loans, etc. Also include login and password information to banking institutions and other online services.
- Important Contacts: The contact information for your financial advisor, estate planning attorney, accountant, insurance agent, banker, etc.
- Business / Real Estate Holdings: Any business and/or real estate holdings, ownership rights, or private stock. Also include any documents relating to these holdings.
- Safe Deposit Box: Information on the location, box number, listed parties, and location of an inventory list of contents inside the box. You may want to register your children with the bank so they can access it if necessary.
- Life Insurance Summary: List of any life insurance you have. Also include a summary describing the policy number, carrier, who is insured, the owner, death benefit, and the agent’s contact information.
- Property & Casualty Insurance Summary: List of any homeowners, auto, umbrella insurance coverage you have on each property.
- Inventory of Valuables: This is a great section to have in your binder. List each piece of jewelry, art, and other valuables at the original price, most recent appraised value, and expected market value. You may also want to note pieces which you want to leave to a particular heir, so there are no questions (or squabbles) after you’re gone.
- Credit Cards: List of any credit cards that are currently in use.
Whether you provide this information in summary or detail, it will be a tremendous help (and a wonderful gift) for those left behind. Please contact us for more information or to discuss your binder or personal finances in greater detail.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________Horizon Advisors is a Houston based fee-only wealth management firm. Horizon specializes in helping successful individuals and families understand, organize, and manage their often complex financial situations. Horizon offers integrated financial planning and investment management services.