John and his wife Debbie had been clients of our firm for 10 years when Debbie tragically passed away. As one can imagine, John was facing unimaginable grief, and as he explained to us at the funeral, his life had been turned upside down. Debbie was his everything, and he shuddered to think about life without her. Thankfully, John’s grieving time was not interrupted by a laundry list of decisions and a mounting to-do list of things he did not know how to do.
You see, years earlier, John and Debbie trusted us to create their estate planning strategy. Yes, there were the traditional legal documents like their will and trust. But these documents are for legal purposes and typically fall short in helping people live regular lives without their spouses. This is where a Family Facts Sheet can help many spouses.
Though not a legal document, a Family Facts Sheet helps prepare spouses for the legal, economical, and practical consequences when one spouse passes away and leaves the other behind.
Why have I not heard of a Family Facts Sheet before?
It is only natural to focus more on traditional estate planning to ensure you protect everything you own and everyone you love while also preparing yourself for the legalities of death. Wills, trusts, powers of attorney, burial directives, and more achieve that. But when you are the spouse left behind, it can be incredibly overwhelming to have all the day-to-day answers during such a difficult time.
“What is my wife’s social security number?”
“Where did he store the trust paperwork again?”
“I need to know the contact information for our successor trustee and cannot find it.”
A Family Facts Sheet should be the first document spouses tackle together. There is nothing legal about it. Judges will not refer to it. You will not need to provide it to any medical personnel. It is simply there to help you and your spouse organize all personal information, papers, and critical documents into a quick-reference guide. This way, you will both avoid the hassle and stress of having to search for things when you are grief-stricken.
A few examples of information you should include on your Family Facts Sheet:
- Legal names and addresses
- Date and place of birth
- Social security numbers
- Driver’s license numbers
- Voter Registration numbers
- Passport information
- Home security alarm code
- Codes to the safe
- Details for where your will and trust are stored
- Names of executor or successor trustee and contact information
- Similar information for surviving parents, siblings, and children
- Employment information
- Education information, including graduation dates, etc.
- Medical information (blood types, medical allergies, prescriptions, etc.)
As you continue to fill out the form, you will think of additional information that is needed. It should always be kept in a safe place and updated once a year. From there, you can use your Family Facts Sheet as the launching pad to create a detailed binder with tabs to help organize key documents. We will go over what that entails in a future blog post.
Call Leigh Hilton PLLC today!!
No one wants to think about dying. They certainly do not want to think about the day their spouse passes. But it is better to discuss these things together ahead of time and be prepared for when that day comes. Dealing with uncertainty is the last thing you want to worry about when trying to survive after the loss of a spouse.
Having a competent estate planner in your corner will help you and your family navigate these often overwhelming waters. That is our job, and we like to think we do it better than anyone else. Please call Leigh Hilton PLLC so that we can help ensure you and your family are taken care of in the best way possible.
Leigh Hilton PLLC wants to be your first call every time for any estate planning need. We look forward to serving you.