The Doomsday Letter

By Michael J. Searcy

Nope, we’re not talking about crashing markets or the end of the economic world here. We are talking about the name of a letter one of our clients has written to be given to his survivors. He has instructed them to only open it in the case of his death or incapacity. The purpose? To make things easier for his survivors and point them in the right direction of what needs to happen next. We talk about these things with clients on a regular basis but seldom do they actually implement this type of communication. Far too often it lands on the “good idea when I get around to it” list. This is understandable because who really wants to face their own mortality? We applaud this client for being proactive.

Typically, we serve our clients by being available to be a repository of everything they are doing financially, even if we are not specifically involved. We can keep track of all kinds of things they want to share with advanced technology and generally higher “financial institution” security than they have at home. As a financial advisor we typically have copies of Estate Planning Documents, Tax Returns, Insurance Policies and Investment Statements. That’s pretty normal. However, we are also able to store copies of many documents we probably don’t normally need such as house deeds, car titles, birth certificates, death certificates, marriage/divorce paperwork, passports, checking account numbers, location of safe deposit boxes, rental properties, business operation documents or a multitude of the various things we keep scanned copies of for clients. We do this because many see value in having someone (in our case, the trusted financial advisor) be the “roadmap” for the survivors, just in case that proverbial truck shows up. By housing scanned copies of these important documents, it may help their survivors avoid some running around because they have one place to go for many important items.

You might not be as particular as me, but I keep my “roadmap” in both electronic format and in three-ring binders. Yes, that’s plural. I keep a binder in my office, at my home for beneficiary quick access and with my corporate trustee. And, yes, every time I update something, I do so in each place so everything is kept current. It’s a hassle, but I sleep better at night knowing that I have a plan and a roadmap to make my loved ones’ lives easier. That’s what works for me.

Everybody’s “binder” or whatever they use to organize the information will be different but I wanted to share what’s in mine hoping it might be helpful for you as a guide, assuming you actually like the idea and plan to do it for yourself.

  • Health Care Power of Attorney – Directive and POA
  • Patient Care Release Form
  • Memorial Instructions
  • Special Letter to Trustee – This explains my general and specific thoughts on things that will eventually have to be interpreted by the Trustee. It gives background, family, issues and personal beliefs.
  • Financial Statement Roadmap – At the end of each year, we update my personal financial statement. This includes assets and liabilities and specific details (in footnotes) about various things (Example: Life Insurance details, policy numbers, account numbers for savings, checking, and investment accounts)
  • Shareholder Agreements, Annual Statement of Valuation, Real Estate LLC Operating Agreement
  • Recent Spending History – This is simply a personal Quick Books Income Statement that illustrates in detail where I typically spend my money. It will help the Trustee because it serves as a guideline.
  • Divorce/Marriage /Children Related – This could include divorce obligations or pre-nuptial agreements, if any. It might also be something related to children, especially if you have a special needs child.
  • Release of Information Permission – This may be in general or for a specific situation, especially if you have someone else holding information for you.
  • Trust
  • Last Will
  • Durable Power of Attorney
  • Affidavit of Trust – Short Form
  • Transfer of Assets Section – This could include Personal Property Bill of Sale; Tangible Personal Property Memorandum; Stock Sale Note Assignments; Residence TOD Deed; Stock Transfer.

If you like the idea of having an advisor who REALLY helps you maintain a roadmap for survivors (including YOU if incapacitated) and would like to discuss how this might fit into your planning, feel free to reach out to us to discuss how we might be able to assist you.


Please remember that different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that the future performance of any specific investment, investment strategy, or product made reference to directly or indirectly in this content, will be profitable, equal any corresponding indicated historical performance level(s), or be suitable for you or your portfolio. Due to various factors, including changing market conditions, the content may no longer be reflective of current opinions or positions. Moreover, you should not assume that any discussion or information contained in this newsletter (article) serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized investment advice from Searcy Financial Services, Inc.

The content of this letter does not constitute a tax or legal opinion. Always consult with a competent professional service provider for advice on tax or legal matters specific to your situation. To the extent that a reader has any questions regarding the applicability of any specific issue discussed in this content, he/she is encouraged to consult with the professional advisor of his/her choosing.  

Published for the blog on January 24, 2017 by Searcy Financial Services, your Overland Park, Kansas Fee-Only Financial Planner and Investment Manager.