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Getting your affairs in order

19 Feb 2021

No one ever plans to be sick or disabled. Yet, if you do become ill or gain a disability, prior planning can make all the difference.

It is more complicated when the person needing to prepare isn’t yourself, but is your parent, but often it is even more prudent.

Billy’s Story

Billy has been married for 30 years. He is proud that he has always managed the family’s money. But since his accident, Beilly is not able to walk unaided and the pain makes it had to focus, the medication to control the pain affects his concentration and he doesn’t trust his instincts anymore. His wife, Carole, feels exhausted and stressed. Of course, she is worried about Billy’s health. But, on top of that, she is feeling out of her depth as she doesn’t understand how to manage the finances and is scared of missing payments.

John’s Story

In another village, 74-year-old John lives alone. One morning, he fell in the shower and broke his leg. He spent a week in the hospital and 2 months in a rehabilitation centre regaining his strength. Even though his daughter lives 50 miles away, she was able to take charge of her father’s finances right away, because several years ago, John and his daughter made a plan about what should be done in the event of a medical emergency.

Long before his accident, John got all his papers in order, ensuring his daughter knew exactly where to find them. He gave his daughter lasting power of attorney over his finances, hoping she would never need to use it. He ensured that his doctor had written permission to talk with her daughter about his health and insurance claims.

In contrast, Billy always dealt with family money matters, he never talked about the details with Carole as he didn’t want to trouble her and thought he was looking after her. Only Billy knew where he kept their important papers, Billy never expected that his wife would have to take over, but in this instance his lack of planning has made a difficult situation even more challenging for Carole.

As these examples illustrate, prior planning really can make all the difference.

But what is important paperwork?

The answer to this question can vary from family to family, but as a starting point try to include.

  • Names and phone numbers relatives, doctors, lawyers, and financial advisors
  • Medications (keep this regularly updated – date each amend)
  • Location of living will and other legal documents
  • Financial Records
  • Insurance information (life, health, long-term care, home, car) with policy numbers and contact names and phone numbers
  • Names of your banks and account numbers
  • Location of most up-to-date will with an original signature
  • Mortgages information
  • Credit and debit card names and numbers

But where should I begin?

The first step is to gather your important papers and copies of legal documents in one place. Where they are kept is up to you, the important thing is to make sure you tell someone where they are kept in case of an emergency.  If you don’t have close family member, choose a friend, a neighbour, or consult a lawyer. It is important to check each year to see if anything needs adding or updating.

It is bound to be uncomfortable, but it is important to have the difficult discussions with your loved ones about medical decisions, end-of-life preferences, and what you want to happen to your assets before anyone asks them. Forewarned is forearmed.

What if my affairs – or those of my parents – aren’t in order?

You will not be alone if you discover you aren’t as prepared as you thought you were, or that you don’t have the paperwork you need. Finding these issues out now is the whole point of this endeavour.

If you discover that you don’t have the cover you thought you did, or that your cover has lapsed that is also a good thing. It is better to find out when you have a chance to fix it, not at the point you need to draw upon it.

If you are feeling overwhelmed and would like to receive an independent and unbiased view of your affairs, you can speak to a member of our friendly team who will be happy to conduct an audit to highlight any concerns.

 

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