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The Most Important Thing You Can Do for Your Loved Ones

By Motley Fool Staff – Nov 11, 2016 at 10:38AM

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Let your family know what you're doing with your assets.

No one likes to think about death, but making things easier for your loved ones after you die is a goal all of us should aspire to reach.

In this clip from Industry Focus: Financials, Motley Fool analyst Gaby Lapera and Dan Caplinger, the Fool's director of investment planning, discuss leaving a simple letter behind that goes through all the ins and outs of your financial situation, with the goal of making it easier for everyone to deal with the difficult aftermath that follows the loss of a loved one. By including some vital information, you can avoid many of the hassles that surviving spouses and other family members would otherwise have to face and make a tough time go as smoothly as possible.

A full transcript follows the video.

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This podcast was recorded on Sept. 22, 2016 for the Oct. 31, 2016 episode.

Gaby Lapera: This is also something you need to think about before you die, but it's something that will make whoever you leave behind's life a lot easier. This is something that another podcast voice you might be familiar with wrote, this is Robert Brokamp, "Letter From Your Dead Husband." I can send you guys that PDF if you want. It has all sorts of things. There's frequently -- I know when my parents' relationship, my father handles a lot of the financial stuff, and my mom doesn't really think about it too much, in terms of actually managing accounts and stuff like that. So, I think it would be really helpful for her, when my father passes away, if she had a letter that listed, for example, what all accounts they have, do they have any storage units, who should you call when he dies, what attorney should be called that can be trusted that has all of their information, who their broker is, who their accountant is. These are things that people don't really think about, but when you die, you're not alive to tell people where all this stuff is. So, having it all written down in one central location is really important for the people that you leave behind.

Dan Caplinger: That's absolutely correct. It's something that a lot of people never really think to do. But, at least giving your loved ones some sense of what's out there, what they need to be paying attention to, like you say, even if it's just pointing them in the right direction of, "Do I call our accountant? Do we have an attorney? How do I get in touch with our attorney? Is it just going down to the bank down the street that I know really well?" Just getting a sense of the lay of the land as far as how you manage your financial affairs is important. One aspect that a lot of people don't think about now is just how much of their financial lives are online or on mobile devices. So, having some way of giving people the password access that they'll need is important so that things can run smoothly.

A lot of financial institutions are a little bit behind when it comes to this. I know I've heard stories of people being able to log into deceased people's accounts and even conduct transactions after someone's death. From a family member's perspective, that might be exactly what you want to be able to do. But technically, it's something that financial institutions are going to have very different policies governing. So, it's important to understand that in an after-death situation, family members are going to have to navigate very different situations, even across similar types of things. You have a bank account at one bank, you might end up having to do something completely different from a bank account at another bank just because of the policies and procedures that each institution happens to have in place.

Lapera: So, I think if you take one thing away from this podcast, it should be, you should prepare, before you die, a lot of stuff. I think a lot of people think, "I'll be dead and gone, what does it matter?" It matters to the people you're leaving behind. Even if you're not leaving anyone behind, you should still be prepared, you should still be organized. I know that sometimes it's really hard to think about these things. People don't really want to think about dying. For example, my parents and I had a couple chats about what they want to do with their estate when they die. And I'm like, "That's great, but I have no power to enforce that. I really need you guys to go to a lawyer and write all this stuff down, because otherwise I'm going to have to go to court." And I think mentally, they have accepted that, but emotionally they're not quite ready to do it yet. This is just an ongoing conversation that I think people need to continue to have with their spouses and parents, whoever it is, so you guys can be prepared when that eventuality happens. Death and taxes.

Caplinger: That's a very difficult conversation to have, but it is a very important one to have, just making sure, as a child or grandchild, you don't necessarily need to know the specifics. You just need to know that the people you care for have taken care of things, that they're seeing the right people to get stuff in place to make everything easier down the road.

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