If you died tomorrow, would your spouse know the name of your life insurance agent? Would your spouse know the account numbers of your IRAs? Would your spouse even know at what bank you keep your safe deposit box?
Unfortunately, many couples talk little about personal finances. This can cause trouble if the spouse who handles most of the household finances should suddenly pass away.
“It’s imperative that both partners in a relationship understand Finance 101,” said Lee Hausner, senior managing director of First Foundation Advisors in Irvine, Calif.
Craig Silverman, a retirement planning specialist with AXA Advisors in Melville, N.Y., uses a 50-page booklet called the Family Love Letter in his practice. On each page, spouses can write down everything from their bank account numbers to the names and contact information of their life insurance agents and accountants to the contact information of the administrator who oversees the spouse’s 401(k) plan.
Silverman recommends that people fill this letter out long before they begin suffering health problems, and that they update it as their financial situations change and they open or close new IRAs and other accounts.
“You don’t leave your family with chaos in what will be a difficult time,” Silverman said.
Here are five things both partners should know about the household finances.

Investments and assets
Write down the account numbers and contact information for your insurance policies, investment accounts, savings and checking accounts, wills and trusts. Keep this information on a single sheet of paper, and make sure your spouse knows where it is.

Estate planning
Tell your spouse who is helping to manage your money and your estate planning. After you die, you want your spouse to be able to find and work closely with this person.

Safe deposit boxes
Your spouse should know how many safe deposit boxes you have, what’s in them and where they are. Make sure, too, that your spouse knows who is legally allowed to open your safe deposit boxes.

List of professionals
Provide your spouse with the names and contact information of the financial professionals with which you work, including accountants, insurance agents, financial planners and mortgage loan officers.

List of expenses
It’s important for your spouse to know exactly where the household money goes each month. Provide a list of your monthly costs, everything from mortgage payments to estimated phone bills to discretionary entertainment spending.