Over the years most couples cobble together some sort of arrangement for sharing financial information. But beyond the everyday bill paying and budgeting, the following important documents are easy to overlook:
Retirement plans. Make sure each of you knows about the other spouse's employer pension plans, 401(k) accounts, IRAs, and Social Security benefit statements.
Credit card documents. Even if each of you has your own credit cards, it pays to know how much you both owe. Keep a record of the account numbers in case you need to cancel the accounts.
Power of attorney. If you have assets that you don't own jointly, each of you should have power of attorney for the other, in case one of you becomes ill or otherwise unable to manage his or her assets.
Wills and trust documents. Your lawyer can keep copies of these documents. But you should have copies of your own in a fireproof box or safe at home or in some other secure location.
Life- and health-insurance polices. If you and your spouse are covered under different health-insurance plans, be familiar with any preadmission hoops that you must jump through in case you have to act on your spouse's behalf.
Business loans. If one of you owns a business or is a partner in a professional firm, you should both know about any personally guaranteed loans. Household assets could be hit if the business can't repay the loan.
Janet Bodnar is editor-at-large of Kiplinger's Personal Finance, a position she assumed after retiring as editor of the magazine after eight years at the helm. She is a nationally recognized expert on the subjects of women and money, children's and family finances, and financial literacy. She is the author of two books, Money Smart Women and Raising Money Smart Kids. As editor-at-large, she writes two popular columns for Kiplinger, "Money Smart Women" and "Living in Retirement." Bodnar is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University and is a member of its Board of Trustees. She received her master's degree from Columbia University, where she was also a Knight-Bagehot Fellow in Business and Economics Journalism.
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