When we’re finalizing an estate plan, clients often ask, “Ok, is there anything else I need to do now?” Here’s a summary of a few key tips that you can do without a lawyer:
• Keep a good summary of information on people, assets, and debts
We often don’t think about these things, because we are very familiar with the people in our lives, what we own, and who we owe money to. The person wrapping up your affairs will likely not have this information though, unless you give it to them. It’s a good idea to prepare a summary of these things and keep it with your estate plan documents. As this information is highly sensitive, you should keep it in a safe place that can be accessed after your death only by the person you would like to see it.
You should include the contact information for the people you’ve named in your plan—addresses, phone numbers, email addresses. In addition, include the professionals you use—accountant, financial advisor, insurance agent.
Also include details on your assets—what type of asset, where it is located, the owner(s), and the death beneficiary. Assets that people often forget about are digital assets, such as social media accounts and e-mail addresses. You may want to include your usernames and passwords as well as the login to your computer.
This person will need to contact your creditors as well. Include the debts against you—credit cards, mortgages, liens. And it’s important to review this list occasionally and update it when changes occur. Having this list will save your representative or trustee the time and stress of having to try to sort through whatever documentation they can find to try to figure these things out, or from having to hire an investigator to help locate the information. It also helps ensure that your plan is carried out—that the right people receive everything you wanted them to.
• Specify your burial plan
When your family is grieving it is extremely difficult for them to make decisions about your burial. You can make these specifications now to take that stress off of them. Funeral homes will let you completely pre-pay for your burial, so your family won’t be troubled with that cost. However, even if you aren’t ready to pay for the plan, you can still specify all of your wishes with the funeral home so that your family doesn’t have to make those decisions. And if you don’t want to contact a funeral home, make a note and include it with your estate plan to convey any decisions that you have made.
• Enjoy your life
I am definitely an advocate for planning for retirement and planning to leave something for your children, but also remember to enjoy your life. Be wise with your spending, but also if you can, take that trip you’ve always wanted to take, and do that thing you wanted to do but always put off. I love my job because I get to meet and visit with all kinds of people in all stages of life. I’ve taken away from these experiences that you’re happier when you’re able to experience life with the people you love. And it’s very sad when people feel like they missed those opportunities.