Pandemic or no pandemic, there are certain steps you should take before embarking on the formal process of estate planning. Right now, though, with so many of us spending more time at home, could be a rare opportunity to focus on these initial steps. They involve the organizing you should do before beginning the planning. Not coincidentally, you do not even have to consult an attorney to do this organizing. Here are just a few suggestions on how to get the organizing going:
- Get one or more accordion, or other suitable, folders that your heirs and loved ones can access in the event of incapacity or death.
- Financial accounts and assets
- In these folders, create a list or lists of financial accounts and assets, with the name of the account institution, the type of account, the account number, and whether the accounts have named, designated beneficiaries. If an account has a named beneficiary or beneficiaries, the proceeds of the account will pass to the beneficiary outside of probate. Otherwise, the proceeds will go into your probate estate to be administered and distributed by the excecutor named in your will. Examples of beneficiary accounts include life insurance policies, retirement accounts, brokerage accounts, and pay-on-death bank accounts.
- Tangible personal property
- Catalog tangible personal property that is important to you, and think about which individual should get specific items upon death. This part of the organizing process overlaps with planning, as you will be making some decisions. It probably will involve talking to family members to find out the items that are meaningful to them.
- Digital information
- Provide instructions on accessing your digital information such as through a password manager.
- Important documents
- Place deeds to real estate, titles to vehicles, life insurance policies, recent brokerage and bank statements, and other imporant documents such as long-term care policies in these folders. Also, place your will in one of these folders once you have completed it.
- If possible, place the folders in a fireproof box.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of things to do by way of organizing your estate. But if you do even this much, you will be getting a great start on your estate planning. And then you can get back to cleaning or baking.