Articles and Columns

Carissa Giebel column: Leave a love letter to your family

10:23 PM, Oct 29, 2012 | Written by Carissa Giebel

It’s important to leave information organized for your loved ones in case you are not around to tell them about it. It’s never too early to start gathering this information and organizing it so your family can make some sense of it.

For starters, gather information about your income, assets, liabilities, and wishes. For income, make sure to include your Social Security income, retirement income, employment income, investment income, and any other income you may have.

Make a complete list of all your assets. Make note of any pensions, individual retirement accounts, deferred compensation plans, mutual funds, annuities, brokerage accounts, individual stocks, bonds, checking and savings accounts, cash, real estate, and any money that is owed to you.

Don’t forget any employment benefits or military benefits, including survivorship benefits, if any. List out all of your liabilities, including loans, credit cards, and any other financial obligations.

Do you have any insurance? Don’t forget life insurance, disability insurance, long-term-care insurance, or health insurance paperwork. Include notes about any automatic payments that you have set up and any leases or contracts you are involved with. Leave information regarding any Medicare or Medicaid benefits you are receiving, any burial or funeral plan you have in place, and business records if you own a business.

Make sure you keep all of your important documents in a safe place, such as a fireproof safe or a safety deposit box. Someone in your family needs to know the location of these documents and where to find the key or combination. Some additional important documents to keep safe include birth certificate, marriage certificate, vehicle titles, passport, and Social Security card.

Someone needs to be able to find any passwords you might have for online accounts, computer access, email accounts, or anything else that requires a password. Keep the contact information of your professional advisers handy. This includes your financial adviser, insurance agent(s), estate planning attorney, business attorney, accountant, broker, and even your doctor(s).

Keep statements from your telephone service, television or cable company, Internet provider, or any other services you might currently be using. In the event of your death or disability, these service providers will need to be paid and it makes it easier for your family if there is some organization letting them know what bills need to be paid.

If you have any specific memorial wishes, make those known to your loved ones. A few things to consider: pastor/clergy/priest, readings, scripture, anatomical gift wishes, cremation or burial wishes, and open/closed casket.

A special gift you can leave your loved ones is a legacy book or letter that shares your family traditions, your favorites (book, movie, vacation place, scripture, childhood memory, etc.), most difficult times, happiest times, funniest memory, favorite memory, school day memories, or anything else that would be fun to pass along to the next generation.

Carissa Giebel is an estate planning attorney and partner at Legacy Law Group LLC. She can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or (920) 560-4651.

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