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COLUMN: A few simple steps can help you help those you leave behind

Gregory Mattacola
Sentinel columnist
Posted 1/31/23

“No one gets out alive.” Jim Morrison said that – the Lizard King.

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COLUMN: A few simple steps can help you help those you leave behind


“No one gets out alive.”

Jim Morrison said that – the Lizard King. Jim had his issues but he very simply nailed this one. No matter how much wealth, power and influence you’ve managed to accumulate along the journey, one way or another, sooner or later, you will take a final breath and to quote Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “shuffle off this mortal coil.”

What happens then is a question subject to much debate and speculation and certainly not one I’ll pretend to have any answers for.

But what you leave behind, well that’s a different story. That I can speak to. In my career as both an attorney and a financial adviser, I have shepherded many families through the loss of a loved one and the many things which follow.

This can be relatively smooth or quite simply, a nightmare for those left behind. Grieving and mourning are hard enough; no need to make it more challenging.

It simply comes down to some thoughtful planning and organization.

It does not have to be complex, expensive estate planning. What follows are some simple things to put in place and organize that can make things considerably easier.

Health Care Directives/Power of Attorney

If you become incapacitated – who is going to manage your finances, pay your bills, etc.? Will they have the legal authority to do so? What are your wishes regarding major medical decisions? Are those wishes laid out in a legal directive? Is someone empowered to carry them out?


Many investment accounts and bank accounts can have beneficiary designations which will allow the assets to pass directly to the named beneficiaries without going through probate and with very few administrative steps.

Are the beneficiaries on your accounts current and reflective of your wishes? Have you communicated to the beneficiaries what to expect?


A simple will can direct those assets which aren’t covered by a joint title status or a beneficiary designation.

A note on this. I witnessed more than a few people provide for their children in unequal proportions in their will, with the rationale being – “I gave way more to this child during their life than the other one and now, it’s time to even it out.”

This is perfectly acceptable – but communicate this to the children. I’ve seen families torn apart, over relatively small sums of money.

It was the hurt of the unequal bequest which did the damage. If a communication had happened, it could have been avoided.


It’s very helpful to have a list of where all your accounts are which includes bank accounts, investments, credit cards, social media, cellular phone and any kind of recurring subscriptions such as satellite radio, television streaming services, internet, etc.

If there are online accounts for these – then the sign-in/passwords are also helpful. Now obviously, these should be safely kept/guarded and updated as needed but it’s remarkable how much benefit this can have for those you leave behind.

The above are by no means exhaustive and there are numerous other estate planning tools and instruments. Yet, starting here and attending to the above in a complete fashion – will allow your heirs to mourn and celebrate you properly, without the stress of playing detective regarding your assets and wishes.

Original content provided by Gregory Mattacola, CFP, senior adviser at Strategic Financial Services. Content is provided for educational purposes only and should not be used as the basis upon which to make an investment or financial decisions. Investments involve risk and, unless otherwise stated, performance is not guaranteed. Past performance is not indicative of future performance. The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation.


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