Often, people go to great lengths to create a suitable estate plan and then fail to keep track of the paperwork and particulars. The problem for many people is forgetting where their estate plan paperwork is located. Or, not communicating to their family where the documents are kept so the family can find them at the time of need.
Ask yourself: Where is your current estate plan and associated documents? In a drawer? A closet? The basement? A safe-deposit box? Your lawyer’s office? Does your spouse or partner, or if none, a child or family member, know where the paperwork is and does she/he have access to it. (If the documents are in a safe-deposit box, does someone know where the box and key are?)
Just as bad: Your survivors know where the documents are and can access them, but the paperwork doesn’t include many or most of the details they need: account numbers, passwords, name and contact information for advisors and financial institutions.
Here is what one retired financial executive who was moving to Florida did, which is a great example of what to do. As part of the move, he and his wife got new wills, trusts, health care proxies and powers of attorney. At the same time, he took an extra, critical step. “I put together a two-page letter and a two-page list as a guide for my wife and our two grown children”, he said. “And we sat down together and discussed them.” The letter outlined how the estate plan worked and where the documents were located; the list contained a wealth of additional information: name and contact information for, among others, the couples’ lawyers, banker, financial advisor, insurance brokers and accountant, as well as account numbers, passwords and the locations of their safe deposit box.
So…I hope you take time, first to put your estate plan where people can find it and, second, to assemble all the details needed to put the plan into effect. Your survivors will be more grateful than you know.
If you have any questions on estate planning, please call Karen L. Stewart, Attorney and Counselor at (248) 735-0900.
For more information, please see my website, www.customestateplans.com.
Excerpts taken from an article written by Glenn Ruffenach and published in the February 5, 2018 edition of The Wall Street Journal.