No one wants to think about an event that would place you in control of your spouse's finances. But in the event of an emergency, it is essential that you have a complete comprehension of his or her financial records. Let us guide you through the key points you should understand about your partner's finances.
Make sure you are aware of all your partner's bank accounts, including CDs and money market accounts. This can be tricky, but it is important to have all financial issues on the table. If your spouse has his or her own bank accounts, make sure you have all the information on them. Do you have joint or singular stocks, bonds, and mutual funds? Talk to your spouse and make sure you are both on the same financial page and have access to thorough information on each other's accounts.
Compile and organize all of your insurance information. Know where to find the account number and contact information for every insurance policy. Make sure you cover information on both life and health insurance plans. Does your partner have a life and/or health insurance plan through work? In terms of life insurance, what kind of policies do you and your spouse have? What are the annuities? As for health insurance, take diligent notes about the details of your policy. If you are covered under your spouse's plan as a surviving spouse, it will be up to you to get the paperwork in order. Navigating the details and exceptions of health insurance can be difficult under the best circumstances; doing so at a difficult time can be even more stressful. It is important to go in as informed as possible to make the process as easy as it can be.
What do your joint retirement accounts look like? If your spouse has a 401(k), IRA, and/or retirement pension, make sure you know the name, account number, and contact information for all accounts. Also make sure you have your spouse's social security number and that you know the benefits you're entitled to. Again, it will be completely up to you to make sure that you receive these benefits.
Do you know your spouse's wishes regarding artificial life support and other health care procedures? A living will outlines a person's wishes for end-of-life care so loved ones are protected from making life support decisions. Know whether your spouse has a living will or health care power of attorney and discuss your wishes with each other so you're both prepared in the event that you have to make health care decisions.
Make sure you each have a will. A legal document outlining your partner's final wishes will clear up any ambiguity about what needs to be done. This document will answer any questions about who gets what property and other assets. Also, if you have minor children that are not biologically yours, this will clearly state the wishes of your spouse.
Finally, make sure you know where all your spouse's important financial and personal documents are. Wills, employee benefit records, tax returns, property records, deeds, bank books, credit card information, social security cards, veteran's benefits, and life insurance policies should be put in a fireproof safe or a safety deposit box that both partners can access. Also, in the event your spouse dies, you will need to contact all insurance and retirement accounts in writing to let them know. Make sure you keep a copy of all correspondence.
And most importantly, don't forget to ask for help. In times of need, people are more than willing to step up. Emergencies are a part of life, and you can sleep better knowing you are prepared.
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