Happy New Year! Among your resolutions of losing weight, joining a gym, and being an all around better person, I encourage anyone who does not have an estate plan to make it a goal to set one up in 2014.
But what if you aren’t quite ready to call an estate planning attorney? Here’s something you can do on your own to start thinking about the process: set up an “in-case-of death” roadmap for your loved ones.
One of the more time-consuming tasks for a grieving family member or friend is getting a handle on your financial and personal affairs after you are gone. The person appointed to handle your affairs (your “representative”) will need to secure your home, forward your mail, pay utility bills, make short-term arrangements for the care of your pets, and eventually create a list of all of your accounts and assets. Often the process of creating an asset list is done in a piecemeal fashion by sorting through the deceased’s mail and files.
In conjunction with setting up an estate plan, I recommend to my clients that they create a roadmap that lists all of their assets and provides useful advice for their representatives. This starting point saves a representative time that would otherwise be spent sorting through a deceased’s papers. This roadmap can be as basic or as detailed the client wants, but some suggestions include:
- A list of financial accounts and institutions where the accounts are held.
- A list of utility providers and account numbers.
- A list of credit cards.
- Names and numbers of people to contact (one’s supervisor at work, for example).
- Locations and numbers of safe deposit boxes.
- A list of subscriptions to cancel.
- Care instructions for a pet.
- A list of passwords to email accounts and social media accounts (depending on one’s comfort level of having others access such accounts). This is a good place to leave passwords to your frequent flier mile accounts.
Remember, this roadmap is not a substitute for a properly executed will or comprehensive estate plan. Provisions that name guardians for your children or list who is to receive certain pieces of your jewelry will be given no legal effect. Creating this roadmap is simply a courtesy to your representative and a method to encourage you to think about your overall estate plan. And of course, be sure to share this roadmap with your representative, or at least advise him or her of its location so it can be found after your death.
Still not ready to consult an estate planning attorney? Then, at the very least, perhaps you should consider making a plan to dispose of your embarrassing personal property.