Father’s Day is a time to celebrate the important roles men play in their family’s lives. Companion, teacher, maybe even the opener of too-tight jars: being a father means wearing countless hats.
One of those hats is often that of the financial manager. While the traditional roles of husbands and fathers are always changing, men often still assume the role of family’s chief financial officer.
There’s one more sobering thing to consider: Men commonly pass away before their wives. This can leave surviving family members unprepared to take over management of household finances.
As a husband and father, I want my wife to be prepared to handle the family’s finances when I am gone. I want her and my three girls to feel cared for because of my preparation. While many men hope for this, I’ve discovered that too many haven’t taken the necessary steps to make these hopes a reality.
Proactive planning can be a gift of devotion and love. I have witnessed a widow clutch a binder left by her late husband, which outlines all the actions she needs to take, as if she was still holding him. Unfortunately, I’ve also seen women who are overwhelmed and unprepared.
While every family is different, it’s important for both husbands and wives to understand the management of their finances. No matter who is your primary financial manager, here are four steps you can take now to plan for you family’s future:
** Communicate with your spouse
The first roadblock to planning can simply be a lack of communication. I have worked with widows who have discovered a financial life that was completely foreign to them, due to lack of knowledge about financial details during their marriage.
Get your financial life out in the open and commit to talking with your spouse about your overall financial strategy and logistics – the amount of all assets and debts; how your funds are invested, and how to access this information after you pass away. Your financial adviser can and should be available to help.
** Get Organized
One of the major sources of anxiety when a spouse passes away is locating all critical financial information. To reduce the level of anxiety in that moment, get organized now by making certain the following information has been completed:
• Estate documents, including wills, trusts and powers of attorney;
• Life insurance documents;
• A Personal Balance Sheet, which includes all assets and liabilities;
• Survivor income, which includes pensions, annuities and Social Security benefits.
** Reconcile your goals with your documents
Developing a detailed strategy naturally provides another important benefit: a regular review of a person’s estate planning choices. It’s surprising how often the provisions in a client’s estate documents – often made 10 or 15 years ago - don’t match their current wishes now that life has changed. Kids grow up, grandchildren are born and wealth levels can change dramatically. Often, estate documents and related beneficiary designations for retirement accounts and insurance policies need to change, too.
** Put the team together
Just as important as getting your financial life organized is putting together the team of advisers who will play crucial roles before and after your death. I would recommend a team that consists of family members who will play a role in the estate administration, as well as any relevant professional relationships such as a wealth adviser, an estate attorney, a certified public accountant and a life insurance agent.
As this team is formed, make certain each person will be available to help. If an adviser is about to retire soon, they may not be there when needed. It’s also important for your spouse to know and respect the advice of the team, so make certain she does.
While we all hope we live long and fruitful lives, we do have a responsibility for making sure those we love and leave behind are cared for and prepared.
Charlie Jordan is a partner and wealth advisor for Brightworth, an Atlanta wealth management firm.