Life happens, when we’re not prepared. A relative dies unexpectedly and you find out that the estate planning documents name you as the executor charged with the responsibility of taking care of probate and settling your relative’s estate. Where do you start gathering information?
One of the most considerate things we can do for our family is to have all of our important information in one place. That’s why, at Galligan & Manning, we give our clients what we call the “Big Blue Estate Planning Binder” that includes not only their estate planning documents, but other documents that will help in settling their affairs. Without this information, the result could be a mess for those you love.
The task of untangling someone’s financial responsibilities and their legal matters is emotionally and mentally draining, especially when they have not prepared any kind of plan to convey important 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 everyone should consider putting together an estate planning binder.
An estate planning binder is a place to keep names, numbers and important documents. Think of it as a reference book for your life that contains the information that loved ones will need in the event of a sudden death or illness.
You should tell the people you have named to handle your affairs about your estate planning binder and let them know where it is located. In addition to copies of your estate planning documents, 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. I t 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.
A personal estate planning binder can be a great relief for children or friends, who are probably still in shock, and it gives them the ability to have the information they need right at their fingertips, without having to dig through files or drawers of paper. It’s a gift to those you love.
Reference: Considerable (April 19, 2019) “This is the most helpful thing you can do for the people who love you”
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