Whether it’s for you or for your loved ones, managing those endless documents and records that relate to an estate can be quite the challenge. Most of us don’t like the task, but good record keeping will be a blessing when that day comes: a death; disability; maybe a divorce affecting you or a loved one or a son or daughter.
These days, managing important records and documents can be more difficult than in the past. With many transactions taking place online today – protected by user names and passwords and strict privacy rules – getting hold of records of a deceased loved one can be a real challenge.
For example, we see many cases where of a wife who has suddenly lost her husband has a hard time accessing account information because the husband handled most of the financial affairs online and he did not share – or make readily available – his login information.
Yet another factor is that there are more Estate Planning options available to us these days such as a Living Trust – meaning other individuals are involved – and these secondary people need to have access to records as well.
Plus, as people get older they tend to lose track of what records they have and where they are.
Yet, record keeping is very important for a smooth transition of an estate. It can not only save time, but can better protect assets and save on expenses such as court costs if Probate kicks in, especially if matters are contested due to lack of important documents.
So, follow these steps for yourself and for parents and loved ones:
- Put a list together of all financial accounts: banking, stocks, retirement accounts, then gather all account and access information (both offline and online access).
- Gather all titles and deeds.
- Gather any Wills or other Estate Planning documents.
- If you’re acting on behalf of another person, work with them re the above and ensure that a backup person (you, a friend) can access to this information should that person pass away or become disabled. This is especially important for a single elder.
Here are some of the documents you may or will need:
- Health care directives and / or do-not-resuscitate orders
- Powers of Attorney
- Any automatic or recurring banking or credit card transactions
- Retirement accounts including IRAs, 401k, etc.
- Money market or brokerage accounts or bonds
- Insurance policies: disability, life, long term care, etc., whether private or through an employer
- Marriage or divorce papers
- Titles to property, vehicles, etc.
- Discharge papers from the military if applicable
- Any business agreement papers
Yes, it can be a pain doing all this but if you tackle it now rather than later, you’ll sure feel good about it!
And remember, as you gather documents and you realize that some planning or better asset protection is in order, there’s no better person than an attorney trained in Estate Planning to help you plan for your future and that of your heirs.