A recent death brought into focus the efforts your family may need to take if you become disabled or die without leaving any instructions or information about your affairs. Even if you have a Power of Attorney and Last Will and Testament, how difficult will it be for others to help if you are disabled or if they need to pick up the pieces of your life after you are gone? If people are unaware of your health care providers, insurance coverage, and assets, how can they manage if you are unable to communicate with them?
Are Signed Legal Documents Enough to Prepare for the Unknown?
Lawyers typically respond to a client's request for estate planning by recommending that three basic legal documents be signed – Last Will and Testament, Power of Attorney, and Living Will/Health Care Surrogate Designation. Even though sometimes there is resistance to preparing these instruments due to procrastination and the refusal to make long term decisions, I suggest that they still do not provide what you information may be needed.
What Do Trusted People Need to Know about You?
There is nothing magical about the list of things you should compile to organize your affairs. What follows is based on practical common sense. It can be frustrating to assemble all of this, but nothing will substitute having the results documented and available for use by someone you trust.
Where are your legal and important papers located?
Who are your health care providers (including dentists and specialists)?
Have arrangements been made with a funeral home and do you have a cemetery plot?
What insurance do you have and who are the contacts for each – life, health, home, auto, dental, long-term care?
Do you have a safety deposit box, where is it located, and where is the key?
Who prepares your income tax returns (CPA, bookkeeper, accountant) and where are copies located?
Who handles your legal affairs and how are they contacted?
Do you have a list of your assets (bank accounts, investments, retirement accounts, business interests, real estate holdings, digital accounts), where are they located and/or who is to be contacted?
Do you have a current list of debts or leases (mortgage, vehicle, credit cards, personal loans)?
Do you have current list of automatic drafts for subscriptions, loan payments, or other services regularly drawn from your accounts?
Do you have a list of property that might be considered as special (family heirlooms), valuable, antique, or of unique value?
What are the telephone numbers of all your communication devices (phones)?
What are the passwords to all of your digital and online accounts (or if you use password management software, what is the master password)?
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