Archive for November, 2009

Often couples divvy up financial responsibilities in their marriage depending on strengths, or simply a pattern of behavior.  If the husband for example, has always handled the couple’s finances, that will continue in perpetuity. The issue then becomes..what happens to the wife when the husband dies?  Will she have knowledge and access to all financial accounts? Will she have an understanding of the overall financial picture and what she needs to do to protect her future?  This of course is more complicated if there are minor children in the marriage at that first death.

A study done by Fidelity Investments shows that about 45 percent of couples work jointly in making day-to-day financial decisions such as budgeting and only 38 percent discuss retirement, savings and investments.  This lack of communication guarantees that the surviving spouse will have financial problems and confusion when the first spouse passes.

During my initial sessions with couples that are considering creating an estate plan, I encourage frank and complete dialogue of these issues between spouses.  Even if one spouse is more financially savvy than the other, it makes financial and economic sense that each spouse know where the assets are held, passwords to the accounts, has access to paper financial records and statements, etc.

There are many reasons for having this discussion with your spouse and working together so that each person understands the full financial picture.  Health care, future retirement, savings, care for children, and more provide the basis for this discussion. 

Before you have that all important discussion, use this checklist as a guide to gathering the information needed:

·         Identify all cash, savings, money market, certificates of deposit and other liquid assets

·         Identify all retirement accounts including 401(k), 403(b), SEP and other IRA accounts

·         List all real property investments worldwide and have a copy of the deed handy

·         List all other assets such as vehicles, promissory notes, business interests

·         List all other personal property, such as jewelry, art collections, etc.

Make sure that you have a copy of the most recent statement for each titled assets.  Once you have assembled the documents, make sure both of you understand the ownership and titling of each asset and how it might pass after death, either by will, trust or joint ownership.  You might also want to involve a financial advisor, CPA, or estate planning attorney in this process.

Should you require a questionnaire to assist in gathering all the information required to complete this project, please send your request to .

If you have any questions about the information provided or recommendations, please call the Law Offices of Daniela Lungu at (925) 558-2710 or email

Do you want a specific topic discussed in this blog? If so, please contact us at with your suggestions.

About Daniela Lungu, Attorney at Law

Daniela Lungu, founder of the Law Offices of Daniela Lungu, devotes her law practice to asset protection through estate and business planning. Ms. Lungu’s goal is to provide the people of the Bay Area and California with the highest quality, and most personalized legal services possible. Her attention to detail and a high level of communication with her clientele distinguish her from other attorneys in the field.

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