When it comes to estate planning, there are two very simple, very basic, yet very important elements that many people overlook: A master list and a virtual vault.
If something was to happen to you, if you became incapacitated or passed away unexpectedly, would your loved ones even know where to begin to help? Does the executor of your will know who to call if something happens? Does he or she know where to look for important documents? You may have delegated a specific person to care for your kids or handle your finances, but do they know where to find the information they need to follow up?
Emergency funds are an important step to preserving your financial life in the event of an emergency (money set aside to cover an unexpected situation), but it may be time to consider going beyond your emergency savings. Some emergencies require more than just money. Some emergencies require a full-fledged emergency plan.
What’s an Emergency Plan, Specifically?
An emergency plan is an all-encompassing action strategy to protect you, your family, and – for today’s world – your data. Society’s continuous movement deeper into the digital world makes data just as valuable as money itself in some ways. Your emergency plan should stretch beyond your finances and include the equally significant digital side of your life.
We have heard so many estate planning horror stories. Don’t be one of them! To protect yourself, it’s important that you take steps and prepare two fronts: A master list and a virtual vault.
A Master List
A master list should include all pertinent information related to your assets that is important to finding and administering your accounts. This includes your account numbers, account types and account holders. Your master list should also have related information that makes it easy for another person to serve as an administrator on your behalf.
If something happened to you that left you incapacitated or unable to take action without help, is all of your information organized so someone you trust can easily take the reins? What representatives or key personnel would they reach out to? Be sure to include the names and numbers of important points of contact, so you don’t have to start from scratch with a new person whose trustworthiness has not been proven.
You don’t want to wait until a near-emergency or worse to get started.
Your master list should be kept secure of course, along with any personal information, such as your Social Security card; bank account information; estate planning documents including a will and powers of attorney; marriage, death and birth certificates; divorce decrees; military identification and discharge papers; loan documents; mortgage documents; and any other personal information your loved ones will need to access your accounts on your behalf.
Here’s the important step many people forget: Share the location with the fiduciaries you put in place to handle your affairs in the event of unexpected incapacity or death! It’s important that they know where this information is kept, as well as a trusted family member who can help if you are away for other reasons. For help deciding who these trusted individuals should be, read our recent blog post: Selecting Fiduciaries in Your Estate Plan.
A Virtual Vault
While your physical documents may be stored in an actual vault, make sure to protect your online information as well. This includes Social Security numbers, pin numbers, passwords and other security information used to protect your assets.
Online information can be stored in a virtual vault and protected by efforts of your own. Encrypt your data. Protect information with passphrases. Maintain software protection. There are a lot of scams that target your online information.
For tips and red flags to look for, read our recent blog post: SC Investment Advisors Warn: Beware of Scams.
Retirees are Often Targeted by Fraudsters
On top of the risks that emerge during national emergencies like the 2020 pandemic, retirees are also common targets for identity thieves and fraudsters. Retirees tend to be more financially stable, and may be less familiar with the common tactics of fraudsters, especially related to technology.
Knowing this, it’s of utmost importance that retirees form their own emergency plans that simultaneously organize and protect their estates, to streamline the administration process of an estate while keeping it safe.
In South Carolina, there were 3,580 reports of fraud related to the pandemic alone, totaling $2.36 million in loss. In North Carolina, there have been 8,470 reports of fraud related to the pandemic, totaling $9.82 million in loss. Most of these reports were made by those 70 and older.
The Bottom Line: You Need a Plan
All of your years of effort working or running a business, saving, and investing can be easily preserved and protected with an emergency plan.
Talk to a financial advisor about putting one in place. At Global View, we get to know our clients and can help you prepare an emergency plan that is all-inclusive. As a full-service firm, we can help you with all of your comprehensive financial planning needs under one roof, including your estate planning. When helping clients with this important step, we see that once they’ve formed an emergency plan, their worries shrink from a mountain to a molehill. No one has a crystal ball and can predict what the future holds. But we can help you prepare for the unexpected and ensure your wishes are carried out in times of crisis.
Global View is a fee-only, fiduciary financial advisory firm headquartered in Greenville, South Carolina that serves investors nationwide. Our mission is to provide truly independent, conflict-free advice and complete wealth management services, so you can protect and maximize the wealth you’ve built.
If you’re looking for a financial advisor in the Carolinas who can help with your estate planning needs, or feel it’s time for a change, contact us. Schedule a no-obligation conversation with our team and get the conversation started.