Date: June 12, 2020

What’s a Family Life Guide? Paradigm Financial Advisors Explains

If the Coronavirus pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that life can be unexpected. And while there’s nothing we can do to change that fact, there is something we can all do to be a little more prepared for the what-ifs that life sometimes brings us.

At Paradigm Financial Advisors, we encourage our clients to create a family life guide. This free guide, which you can download here, includes all the important information your loved ones would need in the event that something happened to you.

Your estate is comprised of everything you own – your car, home, other real estate, checking and savings accounts, investments, life insurance, furniture, personal possessions … the list can be long. No matter how large or how modest your estate is, we all have one thing in common – you can’t take it with you when you die.

A list of your accounts and pertinent information could help your loved ones tremendously as they attempt to pick up the pieces in your absence.

Too Many People Don’t Plan

Individuals often put off making a list like this for many reasons:

  • I don’t own enough.
  • I’m not old enough.
  • I’m busy.
  • I have plenty of time.
  • I’m confused about what to include.
  • I don’t want to think about it.

When something does happen, their families have may have no direction on what to do.

The Best Time to Plan is Now

It’s safe to say that no one really likes to think about their own mortality or the possibility of being unable to make decisions for themselves. This is exactly why so many families are caught off-guard and unprepared when incapacity or death does strike.

Don’t wait.

If you put something in place now, you can always change it. It’s good practice to start the process.

What a Family Life Guide Should Include

There are many aspects that you may not even think about when creating your list, so Paradigm Financial Advisors offers the following outline:

Dear loved ones, I have completed this guide to provide information you will need when the time arises. It is not a legal document but will simplify estate managers, give you an indication of my wishes and assist you with my final affairs.

This line is very important:

*Please remember to store this document in a safe place since it contains confidential information.

Personal Information

Make sure to include information about yourself, your spouse and your children. You may want to include any grandchildren or other family members if applicable.

  • Full legal name
  • Social Security number
  • Date of birth
  • Place of birth
  • Employer (former employer if retired)
  • Employer phone number

Professional Contacts

List the names of any professionals you work with, such as your:

  • Accountant
  • Attorney
  • Financial advisor
  • Appointed guardians
  • Banking contact
  • Insurance agent
  • Childcare provider
  • Doctor(s)
  • Dentist
  • Clergyperson
  • Veterinarian
  • Individuals who have keys to your home
  • Emergency contact(s)
  • Home maintenance professionals

People to Notify of My Death

This can help your loved ones know where to start if you pass away suddenly.

  • Insurance policies
    • Life insurance
    • Health insurance
    • Supplemental policy
    • Long-term care policy
    • Other medical insurance
    • Disability policy
    • Homeowner’s policy
    • Auto insurance policy
    • Umbrella policy
    • Any other insurance
  • Financial accounts
    • Checking (there may be more than one)
    • Savings (there may be more than one)
    • CDs
    • Savings bonds
    • Notes
    • Other

Make sure to include the type of account, the institution name on the account, the account number, the location of your statements and any online login information your loved ones may need.

Online Accounts

List out any accounts you may need your family to cancel in your absence, such as:

  • Cell phone
  • Cable
  • Internet
  • Amazon
  • Netflix
  • iTunes
  • Virtual vault
  • iPad/tablet
  • Laptop
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn

Misc. Information

This type of information is often overlooked:

  • Garage door code
  • Home alarm
  • Other

Real Estate Properties

Make sure to include the type, purchase price, mortgage amount, mortgage holder and the location of any records.

Contents in a Safe Deposit Box or Fireproof Safe

It’s wise to keep all personal information in a safe place, such as:

  • Birth certificates
  • Adoption papers
  • Death certificates
  • Marriage certificates
  • Divorce documents
  • Wills (copy)
  • Vehicle titles
  • Trusts
  • Powers of attorney (copy)
  • Government bonds
  • Deeds/mortgages
  • Pre‐paid burial contracts/lot deed
  • Social Security cards
  • Insurance policies
  • Passports
  • Vehicle titles
  • Other

Special Instructions

Make sure to include any additional instructions for what was not covered above. Examples may include the location of any collectibles, firearms or other items. You may also wish to include any special instructions for your funeral or end-of-life celebration requests.

Prevent Fraud and Identity Theft

Each year, thieves steal the identities of many deceased Americans.

To reduce the risk of having a deceased person’s identity stolen, send the IRS a copy of the death certificate. This is used to flag the account to reflect that the person is deceased. A copy of the death certificate can be sent with the deceased’s final tax return.

Also, send copies of the death certificate to each credit reporting bureau, asking them to put a “deceased alert” on the deceased’s credit report. Then remember to review the deceased’s credit report for questionable credit card activity.

In the event of any form of identify theft or fraud, whether you’re alive or the information of someone who has passed away has been used illegally, time is of the essence. This is the case if the personal data was compromised as part of a larger targeted cyberattack or as an individual cybercrime. It’s important to take immediate action to minimize the impacts.



Jim Reding

Jim is CEO and Managing Member of Paradigm Financial Advisors LLC.