Jerry West's Blog

A few weeks ago there was some shocking news. Matt Cutts, Google's long-time Czar of Organic Search, informed via a blog post that his wife had passed away suddenly.

She wasn't sick. There were no signs of health problems. He was on a business trip, and she was visiting her parents. She just stopped breathing.

This isn't going to be a post for you to run out and hug those that you love because you never know when they will leave you. No. I've made it clear in older posts that those that mean the most to you should already know how fucking awesome you think they are.

No, this is going to be uncomfortable for you because we're going to talk about your death. Yes, yours.

What would happen if you suddenly died? Without warning? Without time to prepare? And I'm not talking about the emotional aspect and thoughts and prayers; I'm talking about the financial aspect.

What would happen to your business that you have spent years building? Could it go on? Who knows your passwords? Your bank information? How would your employees that you have carefully selected and trained still get paid?

Seriously. How?

If you don't know the answers to these questions, I can tell you the answer. Your legacy will not be one of greatness, but how you fucked up the lives of those who count on you today because you didn't properly prepare. Think of the nightmare someone will have to go through to try and sift through your financials and the dozens or even hundreds of logins to figure out to keep things running for your business.

And you just thought you needed a will and life insurance.

Yeah, no. You need more, much more.

I'm going to give you a list of tasks to do so in the event of your unexpected death.

  1. Review your will. Update it if necessary. Ensure it is legal and you have a copy in your safe deposit box and your attorney as well.
  2. Life Insurance. Check to see who the beneficiaries are. I did this a couple of years ago and was shocked that my FIRST wife was still listed as a beneficiary. If she would have known that, possibly I wouldn't be here today ;).
  3. List your bank information. Logins and passwords to all of your accounts, including those that run your online business. Saving them on a USB is fine. Also, include a one-page document on what needs to be done in the event of your death.
  4. Pick two people you have absolute trust in. The first will be the primary contact; if they are not available, the second person is contacted.
  5. In your will, you have listed the location of the key to your safe deposit box.
  6. Meet with your bank manager, and find out their policy for accessing your safe deposit box upon your death. The policy at my bank is simple; they have the two people I have listed under file. They arrive at my bank, present photo ID which is verified, along with a notice of my death, and they are granted access to my safe deposit box.

If you are married, you may feel that the best person to choose would be your spouse. This isn't always the case. If your spouse needs help with turning on a computer, they probably aren't a good choice to take care of your business. If you choose someone other than your spouse, it is a great idea to have a conversation with them about your decision.

And it doesn't have to be a hard conversation; it is actually real easy:

"Remember Matt Cutts? Yeah, his wife died suddenly without warning a few weeks ago. She was young. It's crazy. And it got me thinking what would happen if I died suddenly. I think we need to update our wills, check our life insurance, and pick someone we both trust that can run my business, so you and the employees are financially protected."

Boom. It's that easy.

One more thing.

If you are married and have a big life insurance policy and you have designated your spouse as the only beneficiary, that is stupid. If you are both killed in an accident that is going to cause problems.

Just like your data, you need to have backups. Get backups you trust and then review the information every year. Pick a date. I use "Tax Day" is when I make my reviews and that's coming up soon.

The bottom line is your life changes, the people you trust change, your circumstances change. The last thing you want to happen is to die suddenly, and everything goes to your ex because you were too lazy to make updates and create a plan.

Do this today. Get it done. You'll sleep better knowing if something bad happens, your awesome legacy will continue.

Rock on.