A 38-year-old widow finds herself struggling to manage her late husband’s wishes, determine the family’s finances and raise her young children. Adult children try to help aging parents make plans before the chaos of a long-term illness, death or disability. Seniors realize they want to make their financial plans known to their grown children and grandchildren while they are of sound mind and capability. A family member wishes they had had a conversation with their sick parent about account passwords before they died. A widow is trying to manage the family finances for the first time in her marriage. A second wife of 40 years learns after her husband’s death that his military benefits will go to his first wife (of 6 months) because benefits weren’t transferred properly.
All of these are real-life scenarios that play out around the country every day. As financial planners and consultants, we hate to add to the confusion and grief when our clients come to us in situations like this. That’s why we are so pleased to offer the Family Love Letter®, an intergenerational wealth planning tool in conjunction with Neuberger Berman.
The program helps establish plans with spouses and family members, guiding you through sensitive conversations with your family about preserving, protecting, and transferring the legacy you will one day leave behind.
Consider these statistics:
- 77% of married women will outlive their husbands
- 9 in 10 women will be solely responsible for their own family’s finances at some point in their lives
- 90% of heirs change their financial advisors after receiving their inheritance
As part of the Family Love Letter® program, we’ll help you craft your own personalized Family Love Letter to help you make thoughtful choices and feel prepared, while also preventing rash decisions and mistakes during a time of grief and confusion.
The program provides a workbook to help guide conversations and suggests the needed questions to ask, staring with:
- What do you have?
- Where is it located?
- Who do you contact?
The workbook also recommends the type of documents you need to collect including:
- Last will and testament
- Deeds to your home and other investment properties
- Titles to your cars and other properties
- Tax returns
- Birth certificates
- Marriage license
- Military discharge papers
- Insurance policies
- Banking contact names and statements
- Investment statements
- If self-employed, documents surrounding your business or partnership
- Backed-up computer files
The 12-month program is a roadmap for the next generation. It provides a step-by-step weekly/monthly guide of activities for working with your financial advisor and your family.
The Life Events Checklist outlines events which could have significant implications for your present or future financial situation. Some of these include:
- Paying off debt (college for children, mortgage or other)
- New job or relocation
- Selling assets (house, car, investment properties)
- Loss of job
- Failure of business
- Child divorce, moving back home, etc.
- Inheriting an IRA, life insurance or other assets
- Moving to care facility
Other elements include the Surviving Spouse Checklist, which starts with what needs to be handled in the first week following death. Your financial advisor is a trusted partner during this time and having the workbook to remind you of what is most urgent is very helpful, including:
- Who you need to contact?
- Immediate document needs
- Immediate financial needs
- Safe deposit box recommendations
Through the remainder of the workbook, you’ll have a plan laid out to follow for the first 12 months following a spouse’s death. At the end of the first year, we recommend meeting with your financial advisor to determine what needs to be adjusted, valuing the estate for tax purposes and identifying necessary paperwork to file. It’s also a good time to have family members (if you haven’t already) meet with the team who is advising you on your financial needs.
By 2030, all baby boomers will be 65 or older, according to the U.S. Census Bureau[i] and planning for your finances after death is a gift you can pass onto future generations. Having the security and reassurance your plans are well thought-out and shared with family helps everyone.
One Family Love Letter client shared that when her father was dying, she was so grateful they had already determined his plans and were able to spend his final days talking and reminiscing instead of working through his financial accounts and wishes.
In our financial practice, our goal is to help our clients plan, prepare and save for the future they want. Providing advanced financial wellness planning is another step in the journey toward taking control of your future. We think everyone should have a Family Love Letter®. If you or a family member might benefit from this conversation, please find more information at https://www.maxwellfm.com/women-investing
Katy Ufferman (ChFC) is a chartered financial consultant with Maxwell Financial Management and leads the firm’s practice dedicated to helping women with their investments and retirement planning. Read her latest blog at https://www.maxwellfm.com/blog.
The opinions voiced are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.
 U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, 2016.
 ICMC “Why we need to bridge the financial literacy gap between women and men,” 2016.
 Davidson, Alex. “Financial Advisers Try to Hold On to Business After Clients Die.” The Wall Street Journal, 2016.