In the prior article, I examined the ways to leave your family a road map in the case of your disability. Many of the same issues apply when you are doing your planning for end of life.
Execution of a Last Will and Testament or a Revocable Trust is necessary to pass your estate to those you care about at the time of your death. As with the issue of disability, it is important not only to leave those documents, but to organize the other financial components so that they are readily accessible.
As with disability planning, you will need organize all of the papers into one location:
Income. What are your sources of income and how are they paid? Are there direct deposits? Into which account? When is the money deposited? If you receive social security, caution your family that the last payment can be taken from the account electronically without prior notice if the department determines that it should not have been paid.
Monthly expenses: What are your monthly reoccurring bills? List them: mortgage, utilities, auto payment, auto insurance, homeowners insurance, credit cards, etc. Some of these will need to be paid until your estate is settled.
Next show what the name of the company, the account number, the date of the month the bill is due and how the amount is paid. Is it automatically deducted from your checking account? Is it automatically charged to your credit card? Must it be paid by check? Or paid on line? If it is paid on line, include the user name and password for the account.
With the information listed above, your family will be able to continue paying those bills that are necessary. Additionally, they will have the information necessary to cancel some of the bills such as cable television or internet services as they will no longer be required.
Financial Assets. The list of assets is critical for your family and/or Trustee or Personal Representative. If he or she does not know what you own, it is virtually impossible to get the bills paid and to distribute your trust or estate.
Place a copy of the quarterly statement for each asset account (savings, checking, financial institution) into one folder. The balance in the account is not the critical piece of information here – the account number, contact information and institution is the key.
Real Estate. Make a listing of all real estate you own or have an interest in. If there is a deed or land contract, place this with the listing.
Accounts Receivable. Does anyone owe money to you? If so, list this together with the documents that establish the debt. In this manner, your Trustee or Personal Representative will know the details so that the money can be collected.
Accounts Payable. Do you owe anyone money? Are there any loans or loan documents which establish that you owe others a debt? Place copies of this with your other estate planning documents.
Physical Assets. Make a listing of the large personal property items that you have such as boats, automobiles, coin collections, wine collections, jewelry, etc. What is their value? Where are they located? Who should they be distributed to?
Life Insurance Policies. Put these in one folder. If you can’t find them, neither will your Trustee or Personal Representative.
Outstanding Lawsuits. Are you either a Plaintiff or Defendant in a lawsuit? Put a copy of the pleadings with your estate planning documents. While individuals pass away, the lawsuits will continue until they are concluded. It may be that your estate may owe money at the conclusion or alternatively, money may be due to your estate.
Cash. If you have hidden money, you need to put this information with your estate plan. Otherwise, it may be over looked. Is there money hidden in books? Under rugs? In boxes? In pipes? Behind ceiling tiles? It would be a shame for your hard earned money to be given away in a garage sale or thrown away because it was in an unlikely place.
Funeral Plans. Do you have a prepaid funeral contract? If not, have you pre-planned your funeral. Leave details. This will assist your family in following your wishes.
Past Employers. If you have worked for any companies that had benefits due to you, leave a listing of the company, its address, the years of service with the company. In this way, if there are death benefits due, your family will be able to access them.
Veterans Benefits. Are you a Veteran? If so, place your DD 214 and other relevant information with your estate plan. In this way your family can obtain any benefits to which you are entitled at death.
While your estate planning legal documents are a critically important part of your estate plan, it is also very important to leave a road map to all of the assets and benefits that you have accumulated during your lifetime. This will make a very difficult time for your family just a bit easier.