Clients are often concerned about making things as easy as possible for their kids or survivors when they pass. While this is understandable and important, their approach is sometimes misguided.
I frequently get questions around Wills and Trusts and how to avoid probate. These are critical considerations, but actually alleviating major causes of survivor stress is much more practical than people may realize. I like to break it down into three simple steps that everyone can do to ensure your affairs are as streamlined as possible for those you designate to pick up the pieces after you’re gone. It starts with informing the agent you’ve selected and equipping them with the proper information to get started.
Prepare your agent
First off, make sure the person you elect as Executor knows you’ve assigned them the role. This may seem obvious, but I’ve seen clients come to me without the slightest idea that their aunt, friend or other relation made them an Executor or Trustee until after they were gone. That’s quite a surprise to take in while they are also dealing with a passing. Don’t assume. Make sure your choice is clear and the individual is willing to take on the task.
Provide clear documentation
The worst thing I see survivors go through after a loved one’s death is trying to figure out what institutions they need to contact to determine if an asset exists. Do your children know where you bank or purchased insurance? I’ve seen people run around to every bank in town or spend hours on hold with 1-800 agents just to ask if their mom or dad had an account. While once upon a time they could watch the mail for statements, in today’s online world most statements are electronic. This is time consuming, unwieldy and can be completely avoidable.
The best thing you can do to make things easy on your children or those you leave behind is to clearly document important information for your loved ones. Some people assemble what they call a “Death Book” listing this information, but it can be as simple as a Word document kept on your computer so you can update easily and leave a printed copy in a safe place for your Executor when needed.
Some people get really detailed copying their insurance agent’s business card, credit cards, full account numbers and more. Keep in mind that this document could get into the wrong hands. Really, all your child needs are the breadcrumbs so they know what institution to contact once they obtain a death certificate. Information that would be helpful includes:
- Basic data
- Date of birth
- Last four digits of your social security number
- Contact information of important people in your life (this is especially important when you don’t have children and friends or neighbors may not know whom to call)
- Advisor contact information
- Names and numbers for insurance agents, financial advisors, accountants and attorneys
- Important institutions
- Where you bank and whether you have a checking/savings account or credit card
- Where you invest including retirement accounts and stocks
- Your insurance provider for auto, home or renting
- Other loans or leases (such as on your car)
- Usernames and passwords for important online accounts including utilities
Spending an hour to organize this information may be the most helpful step you can take to ease your estate management and avoid your survivors needing to take time off of work or spending Saturdays going through every piece of paper in your house. Even though each institution will have its own process for handling the affairs of the deceased, knowing where to inquire is half of the battle.
Stay tuned for blogs in the near future for more practical tips. In the meantime, have questions on how to leave your Power of Attorney in good hands? Contact me today to set up a time to chat.