You may have an attorney and an accountant and possibly a financial planner. If so, you might be getting good advice but it’s your money that all these advisors are working with, so you should make an effort to know what they’re doing. By exercising some basic caution, you can watch out for your own interests:
Choose a quarterback. If you have three or four advisors, they all can’t be in charge. It’s up to you to pick one, who’ll look at the efforts of the other advisors, to make sure they’re not working at cross-purposes.
Read your statements. The advisor who’s acting as quarterback should be preparing financial statements on a regular basis. Ideally, you should be able to see a personal balance sheet–a report of your assets and liabilities.
The liability side of the balance sheet should include a home mortgage, assuming you’re a homeowner. If you see heavy credit card debt or personal loans, you may be overspending.
The asset side of your balance sheet should include everything you own: cash in the bank, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, real estate, life insurance, and so on. Look for a good mix. If 90 percent of your assets are held in technology stocks or technology funds, that’s a red flag.
Get second opinions. Even though one advisor acts as a quarterback, the others should play a role, too. Show your statements to your other advisors, to get their reaction. As long as you’re paying advisors, get their advice.
In your will, you’ll name an executor to act as quarterback for your estate. In some states, an executor is known as an administrator or personal representative.
After your death, it will be up to your executor to inventory your possessions, pay bills, file tax returns, and make sure your assets are distributed according to your instructions. Therefore, you should give careful thought to choosing an executor.
You might not want to name your spouse as an executor because he or she probably will be too upset to act effectively. A grown son or daughter might be a better choice. If that’s not practical, you can name a professional advisor, such as an accountant or an attorney. For professionals, a fee schedule should be worked out in advance.
Whomever you choose as your executor, make sure you get his or her consent to serve before naming someone in your will. You should line up a backup executor, too, in case your original selection becomes unable to serve.
Then, go over everything with your executor. Your executor should know what your assets are and where the paperwork can be found.