The Family Love Letter

December 29, 2017

Employee Benefit & HR News

I am fortunate to work with quite a few estate and retirement planning professionals in providing their clients with senior life, long-term care and Medicare health insurance products.  One of the items I’ve noted that my experts recommend their clients prepare is a “Family Love Letter”.

The Family Love Letter is both a document and a file.  The letter is not a legal document like a will or trust; it is a plain language letter that gives your family all of the practical information they’ll need when you pass away or if you’re incapacitated.  The file should include the necessary documents and information to assist them in managing the details of your life.  These days, it’s usually some combination of paper files and a password protected online information vault.

In preparing your file, you should include;

-An up-to-date contacts list for your experts; personal attorney and/or estate attorney, financial planner and investment advisors, trust administrator, bankers and insurance brokers.

All of the documents related to your Will and Trust, or their location (such as a safe deposit box or online document data storage site).

-Passwords for your virtual life; anything related to banking, investments and retirement accounts, credit cards, insurance products, data/document storage, as well as personal sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, I-Tunes and Instagram, as well as all active email accounts.

-Information on life insurance, long-term care and disability coverage, including the location of in-force policies and premium invoices.  As referenced above, the contact information for your insurance broker is important.  But it is imperative that you retain a copy of your life insurance policies.

-Investment information, including 401k statements, bank account summaries and related documents.  The same advice for life insurance applies here- retain copies of all key documents for your family.

-Local, state, federal tax filings and any related personal or real property tax documents.

For the letter, you should outline everything that’s included in the file, as well as any practical guidance that gives your family clarity in managing these details.  For both the letter and the file, neatness counts; online sites and tools are far better than scribbled notes and faded documents.

I hope this information moves you to start your estate planning.  Somewhere in the middle of your love letter you’ll likely find that you’ve overlooked some details, lost contacts and documents, or forgotten to do something important (like update your life insurance beneficiaries).  This is where I would encourage you to engage professionals to review your will, your insurance policies, and your estate plans.

If you have questions on this article, would like to provide your perspective on the family love letter, or request a referral to a professional in my network, please call or email.

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About Kevin Guss

Kevin J. Guss is a Consultant with our Private Client Benefit Services, specializing in providing individual health coverage (on and off-exchange), Medicare supplements, life, LTC and disability insurance to clients of J.W. Terrill and strategic partners. With more than 22 years of industry experience, Kevin counts many retired professional athletes, celebrities, business leaders and prominent members of the community among his clients. He has a Group Benefits Associate designation from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, a Past President of St Louis Association of Health Underwriters and a current board member of the MO Association of Health Underwriters.

View all posts by Kevin Guss

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