The Critical Role of a 'Death Note' in Estate Planning

‘Sorry I am dead’, This is the poignant opening of a 'death note' penned by Doug Boneparth, a Certified Financial Planner, to his wife, Heather.

Distinct from traditional estate planning tools like wills, which delineate the distribution of assets posthumously, a 'death note' serves a complementary yet crucial role. Doug Boneparth, the President and Founder of Bone Fide Wealth in New York and a CNBC Advisor Council member, emphasizes the significance of this document. While not legally binding, its purpose is to alleviate the administrative burdens that fall on bereaved family members.

According to Boneparth, in his and his wife's newsletter, The Joint Account, this document is designed to navigate the overwhelming aftermath of loss. It addresses gaps left by formal estate documents, offering immediate access to essential information.

Contents of an Effective 'Death Note'

The note should include a comprehensive list of financial details such as account numbers for savings, credit cards, investments, insurance, and routine household bills—covering mortgages, utilities, and memberships.

It should also cover critical contacts including estate planning attorneys, accountants, business associates, and close friends who can provide support during the initial mourning period.

Moreover, access to digital assets and devices is imperative. Boneparth advises including login information for computers, phones, and any central password managers to solve the "digital dilemma" encountered after death.

Winnie Sun, co-founder of Sun Group Wealth Partners in Irvine, California, and also a CNBC Advisor Council member, underscores the importance of organizing these details to ease the grieving process, likening it to a "financial first aid kit."

Inclusion of Social Media and Physical Items

Advisors stress not overlooking digital footprints, such as social media and professional websites, and deciding their fate post-mortem. The preservation of online content can be as valuable as financial assets, holding cherished memories.

Additionally, practical items should not be forgotten. Spare keys, insurance policies, property deeds, and vehicle titles are essential details that should be communicated within the note.

The Importance of Transparency and Updates

Regular updates to the note, prompted by significant life events, are recommended. Transparency with loved ones about the existence and location of the note is crucial.

Boneparth opts for a printed note stored in a home safe, though digital copies and safety deposit boxes are viable alternatives.

With the sentiment that preparing for posthumous wishes is an act of love rather than fear, Boneparth highlights the depth of consideration behind such planning.


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