This is part 2 of a 3 part series, so if you have not read part 1, go back and read through the questions in Part 1 and find the gaps or holes in your knowledge-what are the things you do not know about your life?

This part 2 is talking all about how we fill in those gaps and holes in what we don’t know.

And please do not be embarrassed or think you are alone in having some MAJOR holes in your knowledge because I think it is very normal to not know some pretty fundamental things about your life especially if you share it with a spouse. I had a lot of gaps in what I deem important information like who our car insurance is with, who files out taxes, etc. Again, it is very typical in families to divide up roles and you just may not be the person who has set up everything, but you do need to know everything.

It is important to be generally informed on all areas of your life and what it takes to keep the mechanisms going so if something happens to you or your spouse, someone could quickly step in and ensure bills are paid, services are kept going (or cancelled depending on the situation), the correct people are notified, etc.

So how do you fill in those holes?

A quick note about filling in these holes if you are married and believe your spouse will be the person who knows most of this information- asking your spouse lots of questions about how bills are paid or who you car insurance is with or who the beneficiaries are on these accounts will get….old… and he/she may get irritated after a while. And in my experience, this can sometimes feel like an audit, (although that is certainly not the intention!).

My advice would be to gather this information on your own, to the best of your ability, and then when you have hit roadblocks or still cannot find the right information, have all your questions compiled and ask your spouse. I am saving marriages around the world with that advice. 🙂

And as you are working to fill in those holes on your own, you might find out that you may not be able to access some of this information on your own because either you don’t have the right login credentials, your name is not listed on the account, or some other barrier. I encourage you to see this roadblock as a win. This process of filling in the holes is intended to highlight where you have issues and don’t access to the accounts and information that you should. I urge you to see it as a good thing instead of a frustrating thing, because the good news is that you caught these issues now and are able to fix them before there is a crisis! Bravo to you.

Here are some tips on how to fill in those holes by the categories we discussed in Part 1:

  • Financial
    • Reach out to your financial advisor (if you have one) to get a list of all your accounts held with them
      • Ask for whose name is on each account and who are the beneficiaries listed on each account. Ensure those beneficiaries are still the people you would want them to be.
    • Collect all your tax documents as they start to come in the mail
      • Tax documents should be hitting your mailbox now so this is a great time to start compiling what is out there in your name and your spouse’s name and collect some important financial information that you may not know.
    • Collect bills and statements as they come in the mail
      • Start to collect things like the car insurance statement, utility bills, bank statements/credit card statements, explanation of your health insurance (EOB’s), and compile a list of who all your service providers are.
      • Take note to whose name is is listed at the top of statements and account summaries. If you don’t see your name also listed alongside your spouse’s name, be sure you understand why that is.
  • Property and Stuff
    • Order copies of deeds and titles
      • If you can’t find your original deed or titles, you can order copies of these online. For Davidson County, TN, you can go here for the title and here for deeds and each county has a very similar process.
    • Call your banks to see if you have a safe deposit box open with them.
      • If you are not sure if you have a safe deposit box or who you have listed as the official people who could access it (often called authorized persons or signatories), just call your bank and ask. It makes sense to have someone beyond just your spouse and yourself listed as signatories in the event the something happens to both of you. Again, I would consider naming your backup executor or someone else in the family that you trust.
      • If you do have a safe or safe deposit box, you should have an inventory of the items that are in there. This will help your executor know what is worth getting access to in the immediate versus what can be dealt with at a later date (again, assuming if something happens to both you and a spouse)
  • Online assets
    • Most people are aware of their digital assets, however I do think there can be many gaps in what you know about your spouse’s online assets. A good first steps for this would be to ask your spouse what the unlock code is to their phone. Or, have them store the code somewhere where you could access if there was an emergency. A person’s phone is the most valuable thing a surviving family member can access to get critical info in the event of an emergency.
    • If you have not set up a google inactive account manager or a legacy contact for your Iphone, I so encourage you to do this as well. If you (or a spouse) are not comfortable sharing the unlock code, a good alternative solution is to name a spouse or executor in the Google inactive account manager or iphone legacy systems so that they could receive access to your information if something were to happen to you.
  • Legal/Other
    • Ask your estate attorney to send you digital copies of your estate documents (wills, trusts, powers of attorney)
      • While having a digital copy of these documents is good to have, you also need to know where you kept your original signed versions of these documents as well (see this blog post regarding why this is important). Your estate attorney may have kept the originals on file for you, so be sure to ask them if they have the original signed copies, if you are not sure where they are stored.
      • Review who you have named as your children’s guardians as well as who would serve as your executor or trustee if you and your spouse died and ensure those individuals named are still the people you would want to serve in those roles.
    • Call your insurance broker (if you have one) or financial advisor and ask for copies of your life insurance policies as well as the beneficiaries listed
      • Again, important to take a look at who the beneficiaries are listed on these policies and if those still align with your thoughts now.

I hope this post gave you some good ideas for where to go hunting for this information so that it is the least painful process for you!