Jeff Deiss, CFP®, AEP, Wealth Advisor
by Jeff Deiss, CFP®, AEP, Wealth Advisor

CFP®, AEP, Wealth Advisor

We wrote a few weeks back about the importance of focusing on what you can control amid all of the ongoing uncertainty and using any downtime you may have as an opportunity to review and update the non-investment aspects of your financial life. There are links to a variety of non-investment related issues within this article that may be a helpful refresher.

By now, most of us know someone who has had COVID-19 and so we want to share an important estate planning reminder.

All adults (including adult children) need basic estate planning documents (Will, Financial Power of Attorney, Living Will and Health Care Power of Attorney) to ensure that their wishes are kept and so that they have named others who can act on their behalf if they are unable to do so themselves. The past two months have only reinforced this.

Having proper documents and designating a financial power of attorney and a health care proxy is as important to your family’s well being as any of the other shutdown and social distancing precautions we are all focused on today. Having proper documentation available may also serve to ease the burden of our front line health care workers.

Over the past two months, many states have enacted legislation allowing estate planning documents to be notarized “virtually” in order to accommodate the shutdown of non-essential activities and to facilitate document preparation without having to meet an attorney or any witnesses in person.

So the prohibition over in-person meetings is likely not an obstacle in your state in terms of executing basic estate planning documents. And, if anything, the ongoing pandemic should be a call to action rather than excuse to avoid getting your house in order.

The following is a checklist of some additional issues for you to consider:

Talk to Your Heirs
A. About how can they get information in case of incapacity or death
 1. Whom should they contact and who can legally make decisions?
 2. Where are your important documents kept?
 3. How can they access electronic information?
B. About your wishes
 1. For end-of-life care?
 2. For burial/cremation?
 3. For funeral arrangements?
C. About how to access basic financial information
 1. Who is your financial advisor and who is your accountant?
 2. What life insurance do you have and where are the policies?
 3. Do you have any debts or charitable pledges outstanding?

Get Organized
A. Have a paper file of information to access in case of incapacity or death. Include instructions on accessing your digital information, such as through a password manager.
B. Consider using a password manager (e.g., LastPass, 1Password) to keep all of your user names and passwords in one place.
 1. Set up the emergency contact feature.
 2. Document access to devices and the location of any hidden cash or tangibles in secure notes.
C. Digitize and back up important family photos and videos. If using cloud backup, ensure someone else can access through password management.

Catalog Your Tangible Personal Property
A. Take a picture of all valuables.
B. Create a paper or digital book of tangibles. For each item:
 1. Describe the item.
 2. If it has a story, share the story.
 Attach any proof of ownership and receipt.
C. Review insurance coverage for valuables.
D. If you want specific items to pass to specific individuals on death, write a letter as instructed by your attorney. Invite your family to tell you the items that are meaningful to them as you make your decisions.

Review Asset Titling
A. If you have a revocable trust, review any assets that may still need to be transferred to the trust.
B. Call your retirement plan administrators/custodians and insurance companies to ask for a copy of the beneficiaries named on record. Send a copy to your executor and your attorney.

It’s important to recognize that the above issues should be addressed whether or not a health crisis is among us. You also may or may not need to consider all of the above so it’s ok, particularly if it’s too much all at once, to take it one step at a time.

As we’ve mentioned in the past, even the best investment management can be ruined by poor planning. Taking these steps will serve to preserve family harmony, avoid unnecessary dysfunction/distraction and ensure the legacy you’ve worked so hard to build.

If you have questions or would like to discuss these issues, please reach out to your ACM wealth advisor. We’re here to help walk you through the important things you can control. Working together, we can help you prioritize what’s most important to you and keep you on track to get your list checked off.

The foregoing content reflects the opinions of Advisors Capital Management, LLC and is subject to change at any time without notice. Content provided herein is for informational purposes only and should not be used or construed as investment advice or a recommendation regarding the purchase or sale of any security. There is no guarantee that the statements, opinions or forecasts provided herein will prove to be correct. Past performance may not be indicative of future results. Indices are not available for direct investment. Any investor who attempts to mimic the performance of an index would incur fees and expenses which would reduce returns. Securities investing involves risk, including the potential for loss of principal. There is no assurance that any investment plan or strategy will be successful.