Life happens, when we’re not prepared. What happens when a relative dies unexpectedly and you are named in their estate planning documents as the person in charge of settling the estate. Do you know anything about their goals and wishes? How do you begin to gather information? What will happen, asks Considerable in the article “This is the most helpful thing you can do for the people who love you”?
The task of untangling someone’s financial responsibilities and their legal matters is emotionally and mentally draining when they have not prepared any kind of plan to convey the information. It’s not just making the calls and explaining who you are and why you are calling but having to constantly be starting at the death certificate of someone you love. That’s why we provide our clients a “Big Green Estate Planning Binder,” which includes a copy of their estate planning documents and other documents that may be helpful during times of incapacity and after death. Trying to gather this information without your help could result in a mess for those you love.
This binder is a place to keep names and numbers and important documents. It is a reference book for your life that contains every bit of information that your loved ones will need, in the event of sudden death or illness.
It’s admittedly old school, but there are advantages to using a large three-ring binder. You can put documents in pocket pages and use loose-leaf paper for your important information. Consider going whole-hog and adding more dividers for additional information that is not related to your estate plan—anything you can do to make it easier for the person who is going to have to tackle all of these tasks.
Don’t rely on digital only: if your family can’t get into your computer or access your cloud storage, they won’t be able to help. You could keep a copy of the information in a secure location in the cloud or on your computer, in addition to on paper.
Tell at least two people about your Big Green Estate Planning Binder and let them where you have located it. If possible, give one of them a copy, so that they have it available. This is what you should include in it:
Medical Information: Include surgeries, medications, recent test results, treatments and the name and contact information of healthcare providers.
Health Insurance Info: The name of the company, a copy of your health insurance card, your Medicare card and any recent bills.
Recurring Bills: Recent bills and contact information about your mortgage payments or rent, utilities, car lease or loan, and life insurance policies. You should do the same for regular bills and for subscriptions, memberships.
Insurance Contacts: A list of all insurance agents, policy numbers and the agent’s contact information.
Investment Information: Your financial adviser’s contact information and account numbers.
Financial and Legal Information: Contact information for your estate planning attorney and your CPA. It should include where your prior year’s tax records can be found. Make a copy of the front and back of your credit and bank cards. Include recent credit card bills and note when payments are generally due.
Pet Care: Contact info for the vet, any medication information and info for a trusted friend who can care for a pet on a short-term basis. A pet trust, if you have one.
Personal Lists: Who should be notified in the event of a serious illness or death? A list of names, phone numbers and email addresses will be invaluable.
At Krause Donovan, we feel that a comprehensive estate plan, which includes our Big Green Estate Planning Binder, is one of the most thoughtful and considerate gifts you can give your loved ones. Pre-planning on your part will help to relieve stress on your children or friends, who are in probably still in shock, and gives them the ability to have the information they need right at their fingertips, without having to dig through files or drawers of paper.
To request a consultation with one of our experienced estate planning attorneys, we invite you to submit our online form. Opening this dialog is a gift to those you love.