At the law offices of JEFFREY BURR, we help clients with their estate planning. But having the plan, a Will or Trust, is only part of the process. I found an interesting graphic on social media and I thought I would plagiarize the idea. The graphic discussed preparation of a “death dossier” – the files and documents that are helpful to gather in planning for your death. I thought of a few other names for this as listed in the title.
Here’s a summary of the documents or categories of documents that are helpful to gather and keep with or nearby your estate planning paperwork:
- Estate Plan. Obviously I’m going to lead with this one, but have a copy of your Will or Trust package in a location where your Trustee and/or Executor will find them. While you are living, tell or show your Trustee where to find your binder. Our office typically maintains the original copies for our clients and we attempt to make contact with the Successor Trustee, Executor, and family members when we become aware of a client’s passing.
Healthcare Power of Attorney – Directive to Physicians (including HIPAA release). These important documents are part of the estate plan and should be in your binder. Healthcare powers of attorney executed after about 2006 typically include a HIPAA release.
Personal and Family Medical History. This is not part of your estate plan, but could be very helpful for your Executor and descendants. A list of physicians regularly seen could also be helpful.
- Marriage License (if applicable).
- Divorce Papers (if applicable).
- Housing, land and cemetery deeds.
- Escrow/mortgage papers.
- Vehicle titles.
Stock Certificates, savings bonds. If these are in old-fashioned certificate form, perhaps keep the originals in a home safe or bank safe deposit box, but copies in the file with a note disclosing the actual location could be very helpful.
- Safe Deposit Box. Prepare a list of all safe deposit boxes and locations, along with instructions for locating the keys for access to the boxes. From our experience, it can be very helpful to have a co-owner on each box so that someone will have access if you are deceased in order to avoid having to obtain a court order for box access.
- Safe. If you have a home safe or gun safe, inform a trusted person how to obtain access to the safe. Sometimes the combination instructions will be hidden somewhere or will be entrusted to another person. Leave a trail so that only the Trustee or Executor can access such safe at the appropriate time.
Brokerage and Stock Accounts. If you have a trust, the trust should own these accounts. Copies of statements for these accounts are helpful to identify the custody institution and advisor on the account.
Proof of Loans Made and Debts Owed. Document money owed to you and acknowledgement of debts owed will provide the Trustee/Executor with a clearer picture of the total value of your estate.
- Business Entity Information. If you have a corporation, limited liability company or limited partnership, have the entity file and records nearby so that the Trustee/Executor can handle this business as part of your estate. If you have a trust, verify that your personal ownership of the entity is in the name of your trust.
Tax Returns. Tax returns are very helpful for the Trustee/Executor to locate assets. Interest-bearing and dividend-paying accounts will be disclosed on the tax schedules and the tax return is very helpful for the person or firm preparing the final tax return.
- Life Insurance Policies/Annuities. Keep the life insurance contract and the contact information for your life insurance representative nearby for your Trustee/Executor to find.
Retirement Accounts (IRA, 401K, etc.). A copy of last year’s year-end statement is helpful so that your Executor/Trustee can assist the listed beneficiaries complete the process of inheriting the qualified retirement account.
- Bank Accounts/Credit Cards. A list of each bank account and credit card and typical or approximate balances can be very helpful, especially online-only accounts. Fewer banks are sending paper statements these days and locating an account that is only accessed online with an ID and password can be difficult without access to the deceased party’s e-mail account.
- List of All User Names and Passwords. Last but not least. This area of the law is quickly developing. Regardless of the developing nature of this law and whether or not it’s strictly legal for another person to have access to online accounts, I think that it’s a good idea to provide a list of each online account and the password. That includes any of the following and probably more than I even list below:
- E-mail accounts
- Social Media
- Media (Music, Movies, TV, e-Books, Photo bank, etc.)
- Bank Accounts (already stated above)
- Credit Cards
- Utilities (Water, Power, Gas, TV, Internet, Sewer, HOA, etc.)
- Computer Passwords
- WiFi passwords
- Phone and Tablet passwords and PINs
Taking care of these details can really help streamline the administration of your estate. Call us today at 702.433.4455.
-Attorney Jason C. Walker