So this week’s Marriage and Money post is a little grim – it’s about death. More importantly, what happens if one of you dies unexpectedly?
The Bus List
We call it the Bus List – because it’s the list we would need if one of us was hit by a bus tomorrow. On it are (or should be) all the information one of us needs to keep the house operational, to claim all the monies we are entitled to, to log into accounts – everything. The problem is, this could be a very long list, and it needs to be a living document, because everything from banking passwords to insurance companies change frequently!
I’ll be honest – I’ve been lazy about this list. The fact is, I know where everything is, if something happened to Bruce I’d be fine. I either have everything at my fingertips, or I know where to look for it… Bruce, on the other hand, would be in a lot of trouble. Two years ago, I had a bad scare that required surgery. It forced me to at least put together a list of our bank accounts and passwords for him, and it made me evaluate my life insurance (and update addresses and beneficiaries!). However, one master document would be a much better way to handle all of this.
At the minimum, your document should contain:
- a list of all bank accounts. This means listing everything from the bank name and account number to branch contact information (if relevant); what type of accounts they are; who the accounts belong to (single accounts? joint?); online banking access information; and even a list of what automatic payments go into or out of the accounts.
- a list of life insurance information. How many policies do you have? Who issued them? Who are the beneficiaries? How much are they worth, and who needs to be contacted in case of death?
- legal contact information. This includes where your wills are, and who your lawyer is. Have you signed a Power of Attorney? Do you have an investment advisor or accountant?
- a list of any work related benefits that might be available, plus a list of names and contact numbers (this is true for a death or a sudden illness).
- a list of investments. If you listed an investment advisor in the legal contact section, they may have all this information, but if you have investments, pension plans, old 401(k) (US) or RRSP (Canada) plans that are not under their care, you will need to have a list of all of these, plus who to contact and how to access them.
- listings of any other property or assets that you may own (individually or jointly) and the location of relevant documents. I keep my car registration in my vehicle glove box – other people keep theirs in other places. If you own land, where are the relevant documents stored? We have a big filing cabinet with labelled files – but again, I set up the system, and Bruce hates using it, so a list makes things easier.