Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Where is Everything? Simple Estate Planning

In an emergency, what would it be like to tell someone over the phone where the details of your life are, your bank accounts, insurances, personal papers, tax statements, bills, passwords?

What would it be like to in a hospital bed while trying to tell your spouse or children where your prescriptions are,  your charge accounts, your banking details, bills to be paid and the like? 

If you are living with someone, how well do you both know where everything is?

Did you prepare your will and declare a health proxy and  conclude that you were all done with your estate planning?  A
 recent New York Times article said there is more to estate planning than just preparing the will. 

We still need a short, clear instruction manual telling someone where everything is and how to gain access to it, including the will itself.

I started to list of all the things one needs to know about our home and economic management, then asked my husband to go over it and amend it as he saw fit. When we were done, we had nine pages of details, all describing essential matters related to the management of our home and other assets.  

In it we listed the following things:

Executive File
  1. Property
  2. Taxes
  3. Lawyers
  4. Physicians
  5. Bank accounts and credit cards
  6. Stocks and bonds
  7. Automatic electronic payments
  8. Insurance policies
  9. Utilities to be paid      
  10. Real estate charges (Home Owner Associations)
  11. Internet communications and computer controls
  12. Property titles and deeds

Forewarned:  We set out to do what we thought would be a quick and simple task.  But it took us almost a week to complete all the details.  

For each item on the list, we took the  time to find all the original papers and file them correctly.  We also threw out old, irrelevant papers that we had kept beyond their usefulness. 

We then listed all our computer IDs and passwords and tried them all out to ensure that they were still correct. 

Another critical task for us was  weeding out all the junk that was filed in between the essential items in our paper filing system.

Here is what we did when describing our home management in our Executive File that we prepared.

I drafted the Executive File.  

My husband then took it and amended it.  

Then we sat down together and reviewed it.  

We were amazed how much we learned in our review.  He had information that I did not, and I had information that he did not.  We took some time out to explain things to each other.

Everything was in front of us in one place, at least temporarily.  We did a lot of searching to find everything that we needed.

First, we wrote up our description and then printed out several copies including all our typed passwords. 

Second, after printing out our Executive File, we then deleted all the typed passwords in our electronic file  and left them blank so we would know they were available, but only in print.  No passwords were left on the computer.

We placed a printed copy of our Executive File with all passwords in our bank safe deposit box. Now a designated person will open the safe deposit box and find inside not only  our Last Will and Testament and copies of our property deeds and titles, but also will have access to our Executive File.

This should make things much simpler for others to help in the management of our affairs.

It certainly makes life simpler for us.  We don't have so much explaining to do.

For those of you interested in a more detailed example of what we included in the Executive File, see below.

Executive File:  Illustrative Example

  1. Property (List of property owned by address, date of purchase, purchase price, mortgages, if applicable, address and phone of persons providing custodial care, key contractors such as carpenters, electricians, plumbers.)
  2. Taxes (Income, Property, Name of accountant, Location of most recent income tax statements, how each is paid, if electronically, ID and passwords for payments.)
  3. Lawyers (Names and addresses, work conducted.)
  4. Physicians and medications (Names and addresses, list of medications from each.)
  5. Bank Accounts and credit cards (If electronic, ID and passwords, account numbers.)
  6. Stocks and Bonds (Address, electronic locations, ID and passwords.)
  7. Bills including Automatic electronic payments (Electronic bill pays, list all automatic deductions from bank accounts, charges for on-line computer storage, E-Z Pass and other automatic transportation charges for daily commuter travel, list of bills sent via mail rather than electronically.)
  8. Insurance (Life, Home, Auto, Health.)
  9. Utilities  (Phone, Internet, Cable, Electric,Water. )
  10. Real estate payments required (Managerial services of condos, co-ops, mortgages and other loans.)
  11. Internet communications and computer controls (ID and passwords.)
  12. Property titles and deeds (copies and instructions where originals are kept)

I hope that you enjoy doing this as much as we did.  It takes a bit of a push to get started, but once engaged, it moves right along.  Good luck!

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