Organizing Estate Planning Documents Makes the Process Smoother
Manage the administration of your estate after you die, is an important part of the estate planning process. Many put a great deal of thought into choosing people whom they believe will be able to complete the duties of the personal representative competently. Fewer people realize that there are steps they can take to make a personal representative’s job easier and help ensure that their plans for their assets will come to fruition after they pass on.
One of the most important pieces of an estate plan is a will. The document needs to be secured against loss, theft and fire but still accessible to the personal representative. Many leave the original copies of their wills with the attorneys who draft them and retain duplicates for themselves and to give to the personal representative. However, not all attorneys agree to keep original copies of wills.
Some opt to use safe deposit boxes for storing wills, but doing so could lead to problems later for personal representatives if they lack proper credentials to access the safe deposit boxes. In-home fire-proof safes may also be an option, but the personal representative would need to know the combination to the safe.
Asset and Debt Lists
People can create master lists of their assets and debts to aid the personal representative in wrapping up estate business. If such lists exist, the personal representative will not have to go hunting to find what debts a person owes and the money the personal representative needs to distribute. In addition to keeping the lists current, people should use caution to ensure that such lists do not contain so much information that they would allow identity theft if the lists were stolen.
As people begin to store more of their information digitally, it is wise to include instructions to a personal representative detailing how to deal with digital assets. Personal representatives need to know if a person has any online business activities, such as selling things on eBay or Etsy. People should also instruct the personal representative on how to distribute digital assets such as online pictures, music, art or other intellectual property to heirs.
The personal representative should also have access to account usernames and passwords so that he or she can attend to digital assets.
Personal representatives may also benefit from a list of the deceased’s wishes regarding funeral arrangements, including information on any arrangements the person had made prior to passing on, such as pre-paying for services. A wish list can also detail how a person wants certain items of his or her personal property distributed, if these items are not specifically listed in the will.
Creating an estate plan need not be an overwhelming endeavor. With the guidance of an experienced estate planning attorney, people can create comprehensive and clear estate plans that are easy for others to execute.