by Josh Stelzer
Many of us go through life so consumed with our day to day activities, that we can sometimes forget how important an organized estate will be for our loved ones we leave behind. By taking 5 minutes out of your busy day to review this checklist, you can give yourself the peace of mind that your passing will not end up as a burden to your family and friends. To go a step further, I highly encourage you to have this conversation with your loved ones so that they are prepared, and have the tools necessary in the event of your passing. As always, consulting and coordinating with your legal, financial and tax advisors is a must.
Organize Your Financial Records
Create a list: It’s very important to have a centralized list of all your financial accounts that is accessible to someone you trust. By creating a list you alleviate the headache of your family trying to track down every piece of your financial picture.
Be careful with safe deposit boxes: Often times safe deposit boxes are not accessible until the probate process begins. If you store important documents such as a will in your safe deposit box, make sure to make a copy and keep it in a centralized location that your family will know about.
Location, location, location: Make sure your family members or executor know the location of your deeds, car titles, birth and marriage certificates, divorce decrees, tax records and estate planning documents. These items can be a real headache for your family to dig up, and can be avoided by making a simple list of their locations.
Review your beneficiary designations: This is one of the most important items on the list. Taking the time to review your beneficiary designations can keep your assets out of probate, and save your loved ones huge amount of time and money. Check out our blog post, Do you know will receive you assets?
Location of valuable items: Make sure to inform a trusted family member or friend of the location of your stowed away valuables. These are hidden for a reason and you wouldn’t want them to be overlooked during the distribution of your estate.
Security codes and passwords: This is another huge one. Your family members will not be able to access your account information if they do not have your log in information and passwords. In our web based society, passwords are often the key to your family being able to efficiently access the information they need. Also spare keys and any other security measures should be disclosed in writing and kept in a safe place for your family members use down the road.
Easy access to your will and durable powers of attorney: Plain and simple. Keep a copy at your attorney’s office, one in a fireproof safe at your home and third copy should be given to the executor of your estate.
Review your life insurance policies: It sounds like a time intensive task, but it’s not. Simply review your last insurance statement to make sure your coverage amount is adequate for your family’s needs. Also make sure that the policy is in good condition and doesn’t have the possibility of lapsing. If you have questions in this area, we are here and happy to help. A life insurance review is an easy way for us to give you the peace of mind that the money you’re expecting your family to receive, will be there when they need it.
Consider buying health / medical / LTC insurance: There are 3 major types of coverage that help protect and stretch your assets: Long-Term Care enables you to cover the cost of long-term health care in your home or at a long-term care facility. Major Medical protects you against the ever-rising cost of medical care; and Disability helps protect your income if you are too sick to work or become incapacitated.
Review your annuity and pension plan benefits: Often times you are asked to make an election of survivor benefits on these plans when you begin receiving income. Life can change over the years with divorce and/or re-marriage, so make sure that the survivor benefits you have set up are in line with your wishes.
Make or update your will: Contrary to most people’s understanding, everyone has a will. The question is who wrote it; you or the state you live in. Taking the time to draft a will gives you the comfort that your assets will pass to those you intend them to. Without a will, you are simply relying on a judge to make that decision for you. Wills should be reviewed every five years or whenever you have a life changing event take place.
Living wills are important too: This gives your family the understanding of what you want to take place medically, in the event you become incapacitated and cannot make a decision for yourself.
Create a durable power of attorney: By creating these two documents, you give yourself the protection of having someone available to make medical, financial and legal decisions on your behalf in the event you become incapacitated.
Create a Letter of Instruction: This is by far the best way to communicate your wishes to your heirs. By writing a detailed letter that explains the location of all the above documents and information, you give your heirs the comfort of knowing that you took the time to properly prepare for the hard times.
The items above, if taken seriously, will give your family the opportunity to think of the good times, and not have to worry about cleaning up the mess left behind. The last thing you want is for your family to go through a long, expensive probate process during the time they should be grieving. If you need assistance with any of the items above, please don’t hesitate to give Snider Advisors a call at 214-220-0055 and we will be happy to point you in the right direction. You can also visit our preferred advisors page to get in contact with someone who is competent to set up these areas of your estate plan.