It is everyone’s hope that they will die after they have managed to get everything in order so that their family will have an easy time of it and not be left picking up the pieces. Here are some things to put on your Estate Planning To Do list, to make it easier on your family if you depart this world before tying up all the loose ends:
- Identify a place in your house where you keep important information and documents and let trusted family members (or personal representatives) know where that is. I suggest a well-organized filing cabinet with clearly labeled folders containing important information and copies of your legal documents such as wills, trusts, powers of attorney and health care proxies.
- Create a list of your assets that includes the institution where each account is located, the account number, your contact person at that institution (if any) and their contact information. Include on this list bank accounts, investment accounts, annuities, life insurance, retirement accounts, etc. Keep this list updated, and in the place where you keep other important papers so that it can be found.
- If you have original stock certificates, savings bonds, cash or other valuables in your house, make a note of where those items are kept so that they are not overlooked or inadvertently thrown out.
- Don’t forget digital estate planning. Create a list of usernames and passwords for any important online accounts – financial, photo storage, email, social media, document storage accounts. Keep this list updated and in the place where you keep other important papers so that it can be found.
- If you have young children or a child with special needs, consider a letter of instruction that provides important information about your child – the name and contact information for their physician, allergies, other important medical information and other things you think someone should know if they had to care for your children unexpectedly.
- Review and update beneficiary designations on life insurance and retirement accounts in consultation with your estate planning attorney to ensure the designations do not disrupt the other provisions of your estate plan.
- Do your best to keep your income tax filings up-to-date so that your family will not have to try to piece together that information in order to file income tax returns after your death. This is a painful and expensive process that can lead to lingering liability for family members.
- If you have a safe deposit box, make sure at least one other trusted family member’s name is on the box so that they will have access after your death This is especially important if your original Will or other estate plan documents are in the box.
- And finally, make sure your estate plan documents are up-to-date, and that you have left instructions for your family regarding where to find them, and the contact information for your estate planning attorney.
Tackle one of these tasks every month, and within a year you will be leaving your family well-prepared if something unexpected occurs.
© 2019 Samuel, Sayward & Baler LLC