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Guest Commentary: Do you count the beans or spend the beans?

June 6, 2014
By ROBIN L. COOK - Executive Vice President, The Sanibel Captiva Trust Company ( , Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

Often times during my career in wealth management I have had clients where one spouse or partner handles all the financial matters and the other has little interest in what is going on. Regardless of who handles the financial matters, it is a good idea for you and your partner to know at least some basic information. If you are single and have children you should consider sharing information with them as well.

One of my clients recently died suddenly. He had handled the finances completely on his own and even managed his own investments until a couple of years ago when he brought his assets to the trust company. About a year ago he started bringing his wife to our quarterly client review meetings. She seemed to have little interest in these meetings even as we tried to include her in the conversations. When her husband died a few months ago the wife called me for help. We were in place and there to help her through every step of the way. We had a list of all the assets, life insurance policies, and we were already managing the investments so there was no interruption or lack of control if a market crisis occurred.

Here are some ideas to consider regarding what to share with your partner and/or trusted beneficiary:

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Know or share your professionals' names and contact numbers, including attorneys, bankers, investment advisors, CPAs, realtors and any others assisting your family with financial matters.

Review and be aware of all beneficiary designations on IRAs, 401Ks, life insurance policies, wills, trusts, bank, and investment accounts.

Know or share the location of your wills, trusts, health care directives, power of attorney documents, and life insurance policies, passports, titles, safe deposit box and key, tax returns, warranties and receipts for major purchases, and loan documents.

Keep a log or personal financial statement listing all your assets with account numbers and passwords and where they are held. Be sure to update it annually.

Keep a contact list of all professionals that assist with home, auto, and other maintenance type items. Also indicate the service schedule for maintenance.

Introduce or meet these financial professionals to develop a comfort level with them before a need arises.

Whether you like to count the beans or spend the beans, knowing what is going on financially will help make a difficult situation down the road a little easier to navigate.



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