The Importance of Sharing Your Financial Plan

November 8, 2010

This post is contributed by Shelley A. Elder, Esq., Kennesaw, GA

 

What is the biggest issue that couples argue about?  That’s right – money. 

Often it is one spouse that handles the finances of the family and the other spouse is left out.  Sometimes it is on purpose and other times  it is just a division of labor that makes sense for the smooth running of the household.  Generally, both spouses will stay happy as long as money is available for use when needed. 

I recently read a very good article in the NY Times where author, Paul Sullivan, talks about how “the excluded spouse can end up managing the family’s money at the worst possible time: after death, disability or divorce.”  The article describes several cases in which the excluded spouse was “forced” into becoming the family money manager when the other spouse suddenly went into a coma for several months or took a nap and never woke up. -Believe me these things do happen!

I have had clients who let their spouse manage all the finances for twenty, thirty, forty years and then died.  The surviving spouse didn’t know what to do.  They didn’t know what money they had and often they didn’t even know where to start the search to find the family’s money.  They didn’t know if there were life insurance policies or how many policies there were or with what companies.  They didn’t always know if their spouse had left a Last Will and Testament or where that document could be located. This is extra stress that an ‘excluded’ spouse who is already coping with a serious illness, incapacity or death of their spouse definitely does not need.

I would like to stress the importance of having both spouses fully informed about the family’s financial, financial planning and estate planning matters.  Every couple should have:

  •  Regular discussions about their finances 
  •  Attend meetings related to their finances together 
  • A written plan made for the surviving spouse that has all the information that the other person would need to know if one of them were to die tomorrow 
  •  Know where and have access to all estate planning documents – wills, trusts, and powers of attorney  

Unfortunately, many families learn the hard way. When deciding who handles the family finances make sure that both spouses are included in the management of the family finances. Any lack of family financial knowledge can leave your survivor with needless additional stress and in a financially vulnerable situation.

Shelley A. Elder, Esq. is an attorney at Elder Law Firm located in Kennesaw, GA. She is a graduate from the University of Delaware with a BA in Criminal Justice and Widener University School of Law with a Juris Doctorate. As a lecturer to public and professional groups, Shelley excels in sharing her knowledge on the importance of estate and business planning. Shelley’s care, compassion and tireless dedication help to ease the legal, financial and emotional difficulties upon the death of a loved one. Contact Shelly at: 404-783-2244,  selderlaw@aol.com or at www.shelleyelder.com

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