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Posted on NOV 16, 2018

Survivorship Guidance Planning

By Robert L. Warner, Managing Director, The Pilot Program from Johnson Financial Group

Just like a pilot's responsibility extends well beyond the Flight Plan, wealth management means more than just having an investment plan. We view wealth management as managing all aspects of a family's financial life. As a family, how do you prepare for the unexpected—such as the loss of a loved one or a disability? How do you communicate with your beneficiaries about your plans and what you expect of them? It all begins with organized documentation.

Getting Your House In Order

Does your family know where your tax records are? How about wills, insurance papers, deeds, titles? Do they know who your accountant is, your lawyer, or your insurance agent and how will they contact them if they need to? What are your account numbers and passwords for online financial accounts? Where is the checkbook? We recommend you create a Family Emergency Workbook that documents this type of information. It will make life easier for your beneficiaries. This survivor's guide helps organize, record, and centralize your financial information, and it contains valuable information and instructions to help survivors and caregivers navigate what is likely to be a difficult time.

Checklist for Your Trustee\Personal Representative

Your estate plan should identify an executor or trustee. Make sure this individual is aware of what they will need to do after your passing. Chances are he or she hasn't really thought about it other than agreeing to help in a time of need. We recommend that you provide a checklist of duties and responsibilities to be followed during your estate settlement process. This also includes a timeline to order what needs to be done and when.

Beneficiary Updating

The changes resulting from you or your spouse passing will require a review and update of your existing financial plan to reflect the new reality. A new financial and estate plan will need to be developed for the surviving spouse and/or beneficiaries shortly after estate settlement.

Other Helpful Tips

A simple additional tip might be for someone to take time to notify organizations when someone in the family has died. This includes educational institutions, charities and subscriptions that regularly send mail. It can also include opting out of email and direct mail marketing for the deceased individual. What survivor wants to receive mail addressed to their deceased spouse a year or two later? While this may seem like a minor task, we include it on our checklist because we know how disconcerting this can be for surviving individuals. One of the more useful reference books we recommend is Details After Death: Navigating the Logistics After a Loved One Dies by Mark Colgan.

Additionally, legacy airline pilots and families may have access to survivor assistance groups that help with airline benefits and procedures. For example, American Airlines offers Survivor Support Services through the benefits group.

We offer our clients the financial organizing tools discussed here and work with them ahead of time to complete them. We also help work through the details after a loss. You need to ensure that the life you plan together stays together for your family.

Robert Warner
Robert L. Warner is Managing Director, The Pilot Program, Johnson Financial Group and EVP Johnson Wealth, a Johnson Financial Group Company. He is also a Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC®). He has over 25 years' experience helping clients, including active pilots and their families achieve their retirement and estate planning goals with an emphasis on estate conservation and wealth transfer planning.

Johnson Financial Group and its subsidiaries do not provide tax advice. Please consult your tax advisor with respect to your personal situation. Wealth management services are provided through Johnson Bank and Johnson Wealth Inc., Johnson Financial Group companies. Additional information about Johnson Wealth Inc., a registered investment adviser, and its investment adviser representatives is available at https://www.adviserinfo.sec.gov/. NOT FDIC INSURED | NO BANK GUARANTEE | MAY LOSE VALUE