Business Tool:

Personal Information Register

05 March 2015

Susan Rix AM , Partner, Business Services |

PREPARING FOR THE UNEXPECTED

After we pass away, it becomes the duty of our loved ones, legal advisors and business partners to make decisions about arrangements and carry out our final wishes. For family business members, high net worth individuals and business executives, these activities can be particularly extensive. From managing estates to notifying associations, family members and other parties have a lot to deal with during what is an already difficult period.

At BDO, we offer a Family Business Personal Information Register, which helps compile all of this data. There’s so much to think about that it can be overwhelming – the Personal Information Register guides you through the process so you can make sure everything is covered.

Why is it important to ensure your affairs are in order? What information should you consider?

When someone passes away, their family, successors and executors need to know which arrangements to make, how to manage the estate, what accounts to close and so on. Many people think mostly about wills and codicils, but there's so much more.

For example, where is the deed to your house? If it's in a safety deposit box, where is the key? Who are the trustees to your property? Where are they located? This also includes wishes for funeral arrangements - details that aren't always covered in wills.

The digital age adds another layer of complexity. What happens to your online social profiles? Will anyone have the access information so they can shut down these accounts? These platforms are easy to forget because they're not what usually comes to mind when we consider end-of-life arrangements. You need to consider all of these little things in addition to the big things like managing assets and business successions.

What happens if you don't have your information and intentions clearly in place?

For some things, there are processes in law to figure out ownership. But there are also elements that could have a negative impact on businesses if they're not laid out ahead of time. What happens to day-to-day operations if someone suddenly dies? There can be financial costs, for example, if people don't know you have funeral insurance. Your estate might unnecessarily have to pay those fees.

However, it's not just an inconvenience or a financial matter - there's also an emotional impact that can have a long-term impact on family dynamics. Some people know there's going to be a problem so they leave it to other people to sort it out after they die. That's when you find things become very bitter. There can be unpleasant circumstances like siblings who never speak to each other again. Lawyers get involved – at a significant cost.

Who needs to be informed about this critical information?

Ideally your accountant, lawyer, perhaps executor of your will would have access to this information. Think about the people who need to make the decisions and arrangements right after you pass away - they're the ones who should have everything on hand.

When should you start preparing your information?

Sadly, it doesn't matter how old you are. However, the older you are, the more complicated your life tends to be.

Our suggestion is to gather this information at the same time you set out a will. Everyone over 18 should have a will. We know that doesn't happen, but once you start to buy a house, get married or have a long-term relationship, that's the time you should get all of these things in order. For people on their own, with no spouse or partner to take responsibility for these issues, it’s particularly important to have your affairs in order.

Another thing to consider is dementia, particularly as the population ages. What if you're still alive, but can no longer communicate your wishes or provide this information? That's why it's so critical to collect all of these components early on.

What strategies do people typically use to put their affairs in order? Are most people sufficiently prepared?

Most people are not well-prepared. A large percentage of the population doesn't even have a will - and certainly not comprehensive information like contained in the Personal Information Register. They're just leaving things to chance or for other people to figure out the arrangements. If you get married, divorced or have children, you need to update your will. People often forget to update their information when big life changes occur.

How can you make sure you have everything properly arranged?

At BDO, we offer a Family Business Personal Information Register, which helps people compile all of this data. There's so much to think about that it can be overwhelming - this document guides people through the process so they can make sure everything's covered. This tool is designed to help you get organized; and for us to be able to assist you in that process. That way, you can have the peace of mind that your affairs are in order, even if the unexpected happens.

How do I sign up for the Personal Information Register?

Simply fill out the online form below and we’ll send you a link to complete the registration. By providing your phone number we can contact you to check you have received the email registration and answer any questions you may have.